TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – Mr. West is in the building. And yes, to emphasize his line from the 2008 hit “Swagger Like Us,” his swagger was on a hundred, thousand, trillion.
The energy inside Amalie Arena Wednesday night was thrilling as Yeezy performed from a roving stage suspended in air, with hundreds of strobe lights uniformly tilting and glowing through a foggy haze to create geometric shapes along the raucous mosh pit jumping around to the beat of Mr. West’s rhymes following his stage from below as he moved about the arena.
With no opening acts, West emerged close to two hours late from the starry darkness that flickered with the light of cell phones taking selfies, Snapchatting, Instagramming or otherwise trying to capture this rare moment of Yeezy himself.
He stood still as his stage floated through said darkness just past the middle of the arena. You couldn’t quite make out his face, but could tell by the shapeless, oversized top and the Army-style Yeezy boots it was him, and he was ready for lyrical combat.
“Father Stretch My Hands Part I” kicked off the show. To an outsider, the gospel-sampled song that starts off with West rapping explicitly about a tryst with a model would seem an unlikely open to a hip-hop concert, because of the slow and relaxed intro, but as the crowd heard the first words of “you’re the only power” ease from the speakers, everyone went wild.
Bodies grooved and lips released off-key notes before the bass-heavy beat dropped and the crowd turned all the way up.
He went through both parts I and II of the song, the former which features his ex-protégé Kid Cudi and a lot of drama.
Kanye had social media afire during the concert after going on one of his infamous rants in response to a torrent of angry Tweets Cudi directed at Kanye and Drake on Tuesday.
“Don’t ever mention Ye name. I birthed you,” Kanye said about Cudi, who was once signed to West’s G.O.O.D. Music label. “You know how many people wish they could be signed to G.O.O.D. Music? Have they life changed?”
“Never forget that. I’m so hurt. I feel so disrespected. Kid Cudi, we’re two black men in a racist world,” Kanye carried on. “This ain’t the end of the Malcolm X movie. I’m out here fighting for y’all. Creatives, artists. Independent thinkers. Don’t never mention my name in a bad manner.”
Looking at Twitter and Instagram feeds from around the web, it appeared that Kanye’s rant overshadowed the innovative and creative performance that defines the Saint Pablo Tour. But the show carried on, and pulled mostly from his most recent albums and features.
But there were flashes of the old Kanye, the College Dropout to 808s and Heartbreaks Kanye, the ambitious, underdog Kanye that stepped out of the producing booth and behind a mic in 2004 and redefined for many the conversation on rap.
Ye dug deep into his catalog with performances of “Flashing Lights” and “Heartless,” and incorporated what looked like a very awkward version of the Dougie while he rapped “Jesus Walks.
Oddly enough, the show was steeped in uncanny religious undertones, as is much of Kanye’s career. From the name of the tour itself, to gospel samples that carry carnal messages in “Father Stretch My Hands” to imagining in “Wolves” if Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a club-goer before she met Joseph, Kanye didn’t hold back on performing songs that showcase the spiritual influences that have shaped the work he produces.
In fact, it’s rare that Kanye holds back on anything, whether it be his rants, the creativity that fuels his writing or literally going over the top for his show. But love it or hate it, it’s that overindulgence that’s carved him out such a unique space in pop culture. And it’s that overindulgence that makes Kanye, Kanye.
(© 2016 WTSP)