Frequent readers of the blog know that I went to see Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar on the Yeezus tour in Madison Square Garden back in November. It was a super fun show – I was especially happy to get to see Lamar as the opening act – and even made my list of best pop culture experiences in 2013. Kanye was everything that I hoped for and more with his cirque du soleil meets hip hop stage show. It was all sorts of insane and I loved it.
However, you may remember that I didn’t get to see all of Kanye’s performance, since I had to choose between taking the last Amtrak train back to Albany and missing the final act or staying for the whole show and then hanging out overnight in Penn Station. Given those available options, I thought going home was the best course of action; I’m adventurous, but not that adventurous. I was a little bummed to miss the end of the show, but two hours of Kanye was better than nothing (though I know opinions on that might differ).
I was more than surprised (and to be honest, slightly annoyed) when it was announced that Kanye would be bringing a later leg of the Yeezus tour to Albany. Part of the reason that I made the trek to MSG was because I figured that was the closest that Kanye was going to come to this neck of the woods; typically a lot of the bigger tours skip over Albany for the more populous cities that surround us. Being a three hour drive from NYC, Boston and Montreal makes us centrally located, but not an attractive place to make a tour stop when there are much bigger arenas. Something suddenly changed this year and for the first time in a long time we are getting bigger concerts that don’t rely on classic rock nostalgia or an affinity for country music. I debated whether it would be worth plunking down my hard earned cash to see a concert that I had already seen 4/5 of earlier, but my desire to be a completest got the best of me and I decided that I would make another investment at the bank of Kanye (because you all know that he is hard up for cash). Sadly, Ticketmaster could not be convinced to sell me a ticket for a reduced price if I agreed to only watch the last act of the show.
As the concert date approached, I was less enthusiastic about my decision; the idea of just going home and crashing rather than returning downtown for the show seemed very attractive. But I rallied and decided that since the money was already spent I might as well enjoy the show. The crowd was a little different than the one at MSG – it was somehow a more ethnically diverse crowd that I found in the city and while both shows skewed young, the Albany crowd appeared to be mostly high school students. I overheard a lot of conversations about getting in to college, which made me feel very old.
Having been through the Yeezus show before, there was not the element of surprise and confusion that there was the first time around. A seasoned Kanye vet, the idea of him coming out wearing masks or a giant mountain dominating the stage seemed pretty routine, though it was fun to watch the reactions of the rest of the crowd. There was no opening act this time around and while the major components of the show were basically the same, he seemed to have trimmed some material from the earlier part of the show. I think there was only one song that he cut, but he seemed to move through the show more efficiently in Albany and without some of the more prolonged pageantry. This was especially notable in the 4th act of the show, where there is a scheduled “Kanye rant” break. When I was in MSG, this went on for at least 15 minutes and involved a lot of yelling and (possible faux) outrage. This was actually the point of the show when I left and I could hear it going on all the way through the building to Penn Station. I was ready for this to happen in Albany and was very curious how this would go over with the crowd, but instead we only got a five minute speech and it was very calm, cool and collected. He basically encouraged people to follow their dreams and it was much easier to understand what he was saying, either because he was using a conversational tone or because I had much better seats for the Albany show. He did a little further speechifying later in the show, but even that was very prolonged. Perhaps Kanye has chilled out – or, more likely, just wanted to move things along.
Now, I wasn’t there to witness the final act of the NYC Yeezus leg, but I did look at the playlist to see what I missed. This is where there was the greatest difference in shows; the Albany show was padded with way more material in the final act, including some songs that I was very surprised that he did. When he went into “Gold Digger” you could have knocked me over with a feather; I was shocked that he performed it (if not in its entirety) as that had not been part of any of the Yeezus shows in the first part of the tour. I don’t know what caused the change, but was a fun moment of the show. New songs added to the final act also included “Get Em High,” “All Falls Down,” “Touch the Sky,” “Dark Fantasy,” “Run This Town” and “N** in Paris” (the last two obviously sans Jay Z). Perhaps he thought he needed to add some more hits – whatever induced it, I was more than happy for the extra material.
Of course, the moment that I was most sorry to have missed at Madison Square Garden was the appearance of “White Jesus.” I have no idea why I was anticipating that part in particular; perhaps because it was because it seemed like the most Kanye moment of the show. Turns out that it was a little anticlimactic; when you know that a dude dressed like Jesus is showing up, it kind of takes some of the fun out of it. I guess I thought that their interaction would be more prolonged, but Jesus is a busy guy so he was only on stage for a brief amount of time:
It was also nice to finally see Kanye unmasked; since his face is obscured through most of the show, I missed the big reveal at MSG. I know what Kanye looks like, of course, but it was still comforting to get some confirmation that it was indeed him performing and that we weren’t all being punked by some elaborate piece of performance art. Kanye even smiled! He honestly looked like he was having some fun up there and it was nice to see happy Kanye make an appearance.
Some other quick thoughts:
- I didn’t do a full reconnaissance – finding (free) parking proved to take a lot longer than I anticipated thanks to dodgy snow removal by the city – but it appears that some of the more controversial items from the merch table (confederate flags, Native American imagery) were absent. Perhaps he didn’t think we could handle such avant-garde social commentary in the “sticks” of Upstate New York. I’m only kind of kidding.
- While my pal the Monster was at the show, doing his thing and hanging out on the giant mountain on the stage, there was a new guest that joined Kanye – a woman with long hair that paraded around during his performance of “Heartless.” This didn’t happen at MSG.
- Yes – I saw Kim Kardashian. I’m sure that she was also at MSG, but I was much further away from the floor. Kim started off back stage, but then was escorted to the back of the floor and she watched the show from the sound bridge. She seemed more interested in her phone than the show, but I guess at this point she’s seen a lot of the Yeezus tour. I think we’re all stir crazy from all the snow, because the talk of the city yesterday was that Kim was at one of our shopping malls. I’m skeptical on that one – unless she had a hankering for Dave and Busters, I don’t think there is much that would appeal to her fashion sensibility. Macy’s is about as high end as we get.
- I wasn’t kidding about snow removal – it was so slushy that I briefly lost control of my car coming off one of the side streets. So that was some added excitement.
I’m glad that I went to the show last night and caught the part of the show I missed. The shock value was gone, but it was still a good show; the crowd was smaller in Albany but they were no less enthusiastic. I’m not sure that I need to have the Kanye experience again anytime soon. But at least now I can saw that I saw Yeezus without the asterisk.