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Concert Review | Kanye West ends stellar Paris show with a whimper

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 08:02


One of pop culture’s hardest workers, Kanye West is always a man with a jam-packed schedule -— which now, to the media’s excitement, is about to include family-planning duties. Yet thankfully for hip-hop fans overseas, West recently managed to find the time to cross the Atlantic for a handful of one-off shows, including stops in London, Brussels and Amsterdam. On Monday night, his European tour hit its stride with a nearly sold-out show at the concert hall in northwest Paris. Despite a few pacing problems and an anticlimactic finish, the show proved to be engaging and exciting throughout, thanks to spectacular set and lighting design, a dazzling range of costumes and a well-sequenced melee of both his earlier hits and recent releases.

Fitting, given the freezing temperatures that night, West began the main show on an iceberg-shaped stage. The backdrop of the stage was a massive screen shot of the Arctic Ocean. West, dressed in a white outfit that looked it had been borrowed from Luke Skywalker, began rapping a song named, of all possible titles, “Cold.” Opening with this bass-heavy chronicle of West’s romantic relationships, especially given the audience’s knowledge of West’s role in popular culture, was more than enough to get the show off to an invigorating start. The atmosphere stayed sky-high throughout fiery renditions of hits such as “Mercy,” “Jesus Walks” and “Power.” The sight and sound of 6,000 pairs of hands clapping in perfect harmony to the “Power’s” beat was certainly one of the more climactic moments of the show.  

The concert took a turn toward the melodramatic when West entered “808’s & Heartbreak” territory. He stood on stage wearing a peculiar mask made of white feathers, while singing into a special microphone that mimicked the Auto-Tune voice processing effect used throughout the most idiosyncratic record of his career. West stretched the songs “Say You Will” and “Heartless” into a 10 minute performance that traded rapping and movement for an overflow of sentimentality. 

He brought the same treatment a few minutes later to his similarly-themed single “Runaway,” only this time he wore a mask of diamonds. While these segments may have slowed the pace of the show just a tad too much, seeing West at his most emotionally raw while being accompanied by his songs’ hypnotic instrumentals was an experience that will remain well-embedded in the minds of many of the evenings’ concertgoers.

The rest of the show, for the most part, was considerably more upbeat. West poured his every last bit of energy into “Flashing Lights,” “Good Life” and “All of the Lights,” with colorful strobe lights and thousands of rocking arms adding even more to the brilliant effect. He paid tribute to his back catalog with songs like 2004’s “All Falls Down,” and performed recent fan favorites such as the G.O.O.D Music crew track, “Don’t Like,” and his guest verses on 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” and Rihanna’s “Diamonds” remix, from 2012.

The concert’s setbacks, while noticeable, were relatively minor. West probably spent too much time on an extended rant which bashed awards shows and media, likening himself to Picasso, Michelangelo and Steve Jobs. At this point, however, anyone invested in following West’s career should have learned not to let his voluble personality bother them too much. And while West mistakenly rapped a few of the lyrics to “Lost in the World” out of order — as he had incidentally done before at the 2011 Coachella Festival — he rebounded and gave a stellar rendition of this classic track, possibly one of the least hip-hop-sounding songs by any rapper, ever.

The one significant flaw in the show was West’s failure to cap his performance off with a resonating encore — despite having the perfect opportunity to do so. It may seem unfathomable that West would fail to give his Parisian fan base the song that put their city on the map more than any other hip-hop song in history. Especially not with the crowd chanting the song’s five-syllable title together in perfect unison at the show’s end —  “N----s in Paris! N----s in Paris! N----s in Paris!” — while West looked on from the stage, his trademark grin spread cleanly across his face.

But the now-unmistakable sound of a slowed-down “Ball so hard....” never came. Instead, West simply told his crowd, “I’ve been working on my new s--t. I’ll be back in about a couple months,” and left the stage. Even when the lights came on moments later, most fans remained too stunned to leave, and it took several moments for them to make their way out of the arena. 

Despite failing to close with a true exclamation mark, West still made enough of a statement at Monday night’s performance at the Znith: that now, close to a decade after he first entered the game, he has amassed one of rap music’s compelling bodies of work and remains one of the most exciting creative artists active today. And he can always be counted on to deliver a fabulous show onstage.

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