Last evening (August 25), Kanye West kicked off his Saint Pablo Tour in Indianapolis in support of his seventh full length album, The Life Of Pablo.
As is the case with everything Kanye does, Twitter supplied those who weren’t able to witness the first show in person with plenty of second-hand accounts, including 'Ye performing on a stage suspended above thousands of people.
Aside from being a lawsuit begging to happen, the latest stage show from Mr. West is just as resplendent as we would expect from the legendary Chicagoan. But will Kanye’s overwhelming live visual ideology come with a price (other than the outrageous ticket and merch tags)?
Over the years the aesthetic for Kanye’s tours have become increasingly complex and immersive. Hell, I’ve heard people speak of the Yeezus tour with borderline PTSD rhetoric. “It fucked me up for days,” is not an uncommon description of Kanye’s last live outing.
On the other hand, during this evolution Kanye’s music has drifted steadily toward more sparse, minimalistic territory. Analyzing the content of both Yeezus and the more recent TLOP presents a clear departure from both the lyrical depth and musical warmth of the front half of his catalog, and with Kanye’s frequent forays into fashion and visual art, it's okay to wonder if Kanye’s passion for creating experiences have made his music an afterthought.
In music in general, and hip-hop specifically, there’s a great deal of importance placed on the quality of a live show. Touring and merchandising have become the bread and butter for many of our favorite artists, especially in a time of declining physical and digital album sales, but at the end of the day a concert is supposed to enhance the experience of the music, not to distract from it. Kanye is tip-toeing that line more than anyone else in the industry.
I’m sorry, but as a frequent concert goer I don't want to spend two hours watching the bottom of a pair of Yeezy’s with a craned neck.
Floating above a crowd or rapping from on top of a fake mountain certainly create a moment, and it's likely to give fans an unforgettable experience, but just how much of that experience is focused on the music that brought fans to the show in the first place? As Saint Pablo treks across the country this fall, we'll soon find out.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram