In an age where many creatives scold their audiences for avid smartphone use during their concerts, one man and one man only, leaned in. Yes, Kanye West’s stunning ‘Saint Pablo’ tour and its floating stage are visceral and visually exciting — the gift of your favorite rapper literally floating above you for the entirety of his set is the kind of populist benevolence only Kanye “I Am A God” West would bestow on his fans. The other layer, of course, is that the show seems to be the first of its kind designed specifically with smartphones, social media posts, and short bursts of video in mind.
By now, you’ve either been to the ‘Saint Pablo’ tour, will attend later in the year for the second leg of dates he just announced, or have voraciously and jealously consumed enough social media about the shows to know exactly how they go down. Contrasting red, orange and gold lights create an atmosphere that looks incredible when pixelated, shimmers when condensed into shareable video, and offers unparalleled access to the fascinating facial expressions, dance moves, and general glorification that a Kanye West performance includes.
So while I had a pretty good idea of what Ye’s show at The Forum last night (one in a string of six in the LA area) would be like, I still wasn’t prepared for the power of his stunning visuals, or the unfathomable live energy and absolute compassion he displayed throughout the night.
Then, there’s the music.
Whatever you think about The Life Of Pablo as a whole — I find it to be a faith-restoring balm, but suit yourself — the highlights of this album are among some of the brightest in his entire career. Those tracks will pump up any crowd around the world for years to come, so opening with “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” and segueing into “Pt. 2” and “Famous” is the only way this tour could begin.
To celebrate “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” going #1 on the Urban radio chart, Ye ran it back and performed the whole thing twice, and reprised it later on in the show in tribute to his protege Kid Cudi, who recently shared his struggle with depression and checked himself into rehab. This moment was not only poignant for Cudi fans — most of whom overlap as Kanye fans — but a reminder of Ye’s character.