Kanye West’s Yeezus tour resumed last night in Philadelphia, bouncing back from a series of postponed and canceled dates after stage equipment was damaged in a truck collision. Despite the fact that Philadelphia’s show was the first performance since October 28th, and the first following that string of complications, West took to the stage with energy and confidence. Throughout the two-hour-plus show, he delivered a fiery, dedicated performance.
Perhaps because the Yeezus show is so structured, including troupes of actors, fireworks and even an exploding mountain, West had little stage banter and didn’t directly address the postponements. However, on an extended version of “Runaway,” which was one of the show’s most moving and revealing moments, West sermonized from an altar (actually a keyboard) that had been brought on stage, speaking about his own struggles and perception of himself.
“Anybody that’s a fan [of me] is a fan of themselves,” West declared in the middle of the song. “Anybody that’s a fan can do anything!”
As the monologue progressed, West touched on a variety of topics. “They don’t want you to be you,” he said of modern radio programmers. He also used an extended metaphor to address his feelings of persecution for stepping outside convention in his art: “If a slave got too strong, and he was talking too loud,” he said, “They’d say . . . We’re gonna put this slave in front of a crowd and whip his ass until ‘what now?!'”
West’s forceful speech was representative of the show itself. Almost every song found West going all out. On “Coldest Winter,” which West explained was written about his mother’s untimely passing, he lay sprawled on the stage, which had been tilted upwards to resemble a jagged cliff. As he performed the song, manufactured snow drifted down, heightening the sense of West’s despair. By contrast, the booming “Black Skinhead” was played at such a loud volume that the arena shook as West proved an animated showman, whipping his entire body with the beat.
As with previous stops, the whole show was high concept, with a stage built to look like a gigantic mountain. For most of the evening, West wore a variety of masks that obscured his face entirely. A group of women, alternatively dressed in prayer robes or flesh-toned body suits, would enter and leave the stage, occasionally bringing votives and other times writhing around West in a simulated orgy. One of the creepiest and most clever moments came during the middle of the concert, when a hairy creature with glowing red eyes leered at West from the mountain, never interacting with him but constantly watching.
Despite previous setbacks, the entire show went off smoothly. West seemed excited to see his vision executed and equally thrilled to see how well it was received. Near the end of the set, West proclaimed his gratitude to the crowd: “Philly, thank you for a wonderful night!” In light of the show’s high concept and tracks like “I Am a God,” West’s performance on his first night back served to show the human side of the guy that put out an album called Yeezus.