Cartoon concert review: Kanye loves Kanye

Kanye West GigCity EdmontonPerforming weeks after Drake conquered Rogers Place, Kanye West showed Edmonton the opposite side of Drake’s win-‘em-over-approach.

This was the Kanye show and it was all about Kanye. There were no opening acts or tacky TV commercials greeting the audience arriving into the bowels of Rogers Place. Instead, dry ice drifted along the floor and ominous music hummed in the background. When Kanye eventually materialized on the small floating platform, the soup of people on the floor congregated underneath the makeshift stage, following it as one mass of jumping body parts.

Kicking off the concert with the sweet chopped hymns of Father Stretch My Hands, Yeezy set the tone of the night by flailing around on the moving stage like a kid jumping on a bed. He barely had to raise the microphone to his lips for most songs as the audience rapped along to the music, nailing every beat and Kanye punchline. The hip hop star had no problems restarting songs until it was to his satisfaction. Some tracks went only as far as the intro until he grew tired of it and skipped ahead to the next song, as if he was a hyperactive child playing on a radio.

Fans were greeted to a healthy dose of tracks off his newest album, The Life of Pablo, along with recent songs from other artists Kanye guested on, such as Drake’s Pop Style and That Part from Schoolboy Q. Sprinkled throughout the playlist were classics such as Can’t Tell Me Nothing and Touch the Sky, which had the entire audience jumping.

A massive lighting rig hung from above Kanye, yet for most of the night the crowd was bathed in inky darkness, punctuated periodically by a blast of rusty orange or red. Kanye’s platform moved from one side of the arena to the other side, gently bobbing as he pranced upon it. The sound, at least on the lower bowl, was loud and booming, forcing the Rogers Place ticket takers to jab fingers in their ears to drown out the distortion.

On a small stage at one end of the arena, Kanye music mastermind Mike Dean manned the sounds, adding flourishes of keyboard and piercing guitar solos to tracks while Tony Williams filled out some songs with his soaring vocals. Most of the tracks were as you remember them from the albums, while some were extended and fleshed out with new stadium status sounds.

The show divided some audience members in that there was not the typical giant screen replete with flashy graphics or the cliche seizure-inducing strobe lights. The focus of the show was the hyped-up audience on the floor. Wherever Kanye’s stage hovered, underneath his platform, illuminated by lights, a mini dance floor would break out and the kids would jump around in glee as security guards tried to maintain some sense of order. Never before has an entire floor of an arena been turned into a giant, full-on mosh pit.

Kanye lacked Drake’s showmanship, rather relying on his own charisma to guide the show. There was no “EDMONTON, YOU KNOW HOW TO PARTY!” or free T-shirts tossed into the crowd. (If you wanted a shirt you had to wait in a lineup for the merchandise booth which nearly snaked the entire Rogers Place concourse just to snag a $60 piece of cloth.) It was a daring, stripped down but still elaborate way to stage a concert and based on how engaged the audience was, there was no doubt who the king of hip-hop is.