Reviewed by Steven Frith

Date: 4/18/2008 (Other Dates)
Venue: Arco Arena, Sacramento

My Rap Concert Standard - **New Standard** Kanye West

Kanye’s creativity, ego, music, pursuit of perfection and humor all have a part in making this one of the best performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

Headliner: Kanye West

Opening Sets: Lupe Fiasco, N.E.R.D., and Rihanna

Time of Whole Concert: about 5 hours

Ticket Prices if You Didn’t Buy From a Scalper (aka retail price): $39.50 – 72.50

Crowd: A surprisingly young crowd with a lot of high school kids. But there were plenty of adults though too, which was evident in the long beer/alcohol lines. I have to admit that I was surprised that the crowd was as racially balanced as it was. When going to a DMX concert some years ago, I was among the only white kids there, but no one would feel uncomfortable or in the minority at this show.


Opening Sets:
With all of the opening acts, the concert actually felt a bit like a radio show concert. Each act had about 30 minutes, and then there was about 15 minutes of setup time in between performances. The one thing that was nice was that the concert actually started on time. I got to the POS that is Arco Arena at about 7:15 (with the show scheduled to start at 7) and the music was already playing.

I have to tell you starting out that I wasn’t very interested in seeing any of the opening acts. I had heard of Lupe Fiasco, but couldn’t name any of his songs prior to the show. N.E.R.D. featuring Pharrell Williams has a couple songs I like, but I’ve never been able to get into the group too much. And Rihanna is actually a bit of a guilty pleasure as I really like a couple of her songs – but not enough where I would actually go to a concert just to see her.

Lupe Fiasco started things off, and his energy was contagious. I had never even heard of anything he was performing until his final two songs, yet I was very intent just watching how he took energy from the crowd and how the crowd took the energy back from him. Lupe squeezed as many songs as he could in his 30 minutes, and had Matthew Santos join him about halfway through to help him finish out his part of the show. I feel like Lupe’s performance was actually the second best performance of the night. When he played “Superstar” and “Daydreamin’” to close out his set, even I was getting involved. I might actually look at picking up his disc after this.

N.E.R.D. and Rihanna were somewhat disappointing in my eyes. N.E.R.D. went 2nd and had a lot of energy, but Pharell is rap’s version of Britney Spears. Not in the crazy, rehab kind of way, but in the studio magic making your voice sound better kind of way. I know the acoustics in Arco are horrible, but you could still tell that it just wasn’t quite right. “Lapdance,” “Rockstar,” and “She Wants to Move” all had people excited, but they just didn’t sound great. And may I go on a mini-rant asking why do some rappers have like 30 people on stage? Seriously, most of those guys weren’t doing anything and it was almost distracting. Also, why do some rappers (N.E.R.D. included) constantly TRY to involve the crowd? Don’t tell us what to do, we are paying to see you, if you put on a good show, we (as the crowd) will do what we can to show you we are having a good time anyway. Sorry, but it annoys me when someone keeps telling me to wave my hands, or say this or say that. Moving on…

Rihanna’s performance left a little to be desired. She didn’t do a bad job, but the crowd just didn’t seem connected. It may have been the 3 or so ballads she performed, but even when “Please Don’t Stop the Music,” “SOS,” “Umbrella” and “Shut Up and Drive” came on, the crowd just seemed marginally into it – which surprised me. The prop cigarette on one of her slower songs was unnecessary too.

Main Act:
Let me just start off by saying that sitting through the 3 hours of opening acts, the long setup time for Kanye’s stage, and all the breaths of second-hand, diluted weed smoke were more than worth it for this show. The sound effects before Kanye was even introduced set the stage for the entire show. Thunderous sounds of a rocket went from one end of the arena to the other, rocking the entire place as if an earthquake just hit. This began the journey that took the crowd through a spaceship crash on an unknown planet because as Kanye put it: “Earth has lost all of its creativity.”

The lights, video, smoke, and a moving stage was all Kanye had to work with for this 90 minute show of 19 songs. A tight script didn’t allow for a lot of veering off to conversations with the crowd or any free-styling, but this was a live action musical. There were no back-up dancers or singers to support him. The band wasn’t even on stage, as it was in an orchestra-type pit in the front of the stage. This show was all about Kanye and he didn’t disappoint. His energy was incredible and I caught myself wondering, not only how he is going to be able to do this for a long tour, but how he was going to finish the night. He was dripping sweat after about four songs and was running around the entire time.
I won’t go over the set list (although almost all of his hits are included), but as you can imagine, he gave a nice tribute to his recently passed mother. After “Hey Mama,” Kanye sat in reflection on the side of the stage as a Kanye-fied version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey played and took you to the beginning of the finale of the show. At the end, there was no encore, but he left so much on the stage, that there was no need.

Some of Kanye’s known intricacies did come out in the show, and he was big enough to even poke fun at some of them. First of all, as part of the performance and wanting to “come home” he gave a short prayer (based on the story of the show) before “Jesus Walks.” As he talked to God, he promised a couple things, such as that he “would stop talking so much shit.” He also said, “God, if you get me off this planet, I’ll stop spazzing out at award shows. Just help me get home.” While I really liked the whole show, it was obvious that it was the 2nd show of the tour as there were some glitches.

There were a couple times that you could see Kanye the director, as he was telling people when to start the smoke when it should have been going already. During one song, there was a screen in his way, and n the flow of the rap he said, “get this shit out of my way.” He even apologized for mistakes at the end. Some probably didn’t think this was necessary and he shouldn’t have said anything, but I think it shows his pursuit of perfection and his frustration in giving us anything less.

Verdict: As if it isn’t clear enough already, I suggest finding any way to go to this concert. I know a lot of venues are sold out, but Stub Hub is the right route to take, because you don’t want to miss this. If you aren’t into the opening acts, Kanye’s show didn’t start until nearly 10:30, so you probably don’t have to be there at 7 if that’s the case.

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