Five Things That Happened At The First Stop Of Kanye’s Australian Tour
“Now there’s only two times in history: Before Yeezus and After.“
Popular recording artist/history’s most significant human Kanye West rolled into Perth on Friday afternoon, warming up for his first West Australian concert in six years with a game of pick-up at a local rec center. Alongside him, an elderly women’s exercise class ran as per usual. (Were they taking cues from Kanye’s very own ‘Workout Plan’? Goddamit, I wish that were true.)
For a rapper who titled his last effort Yeezus only half-ironically, this was a low-key, humanising entrée to his seven-date tour across Australia.
Kanye’s original tour dates had been postponed to better accommodate the recording of Yeezus 2, and his nuptials with Kim Kardashian — but when he finally took to the stage last night, he didn’t apologise for the four-month delay. He didn’t need to. Sure, the show itself was immensely satisfying – a stirring reminder of his miraculous, impossible talent and endless catalogue of perfect tunes – but more than that, the paparazzi snaps of him playfully dribbling a basketball alongside the residents of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel were apology enough.
Here are five things I learned at the first stop of Kanye’s Australian tour:
#1: White Jesus Isn’t Resurrected Here, And We Don’t Get Mount Yeezus Either
Any Kanye fan worth their salt salivated over the prospect of Mr. West bringing his gargantuan Yeezus stage show to our shores. After all, he had lugged across America a 60-foot wide circular LED screen and a 50-foot high volcano designated ‘Mount Yeezus’, not to mention 12 female dancers/disciples, a red-eyed Yeti who glared at Kanye from atop the mount, and, most infamously, “White Jesus”, which is exactly what it sounds like: a robed, bearded dude tasked with triumphantly fist-bumping Kanye at the emotional climax of the show.
Image via NYPost
Only these elements, Ye insisted, could help him fully realise his album’s artistic vision: an explosive saga that, within 10 tracks, conveyed the history of black oppression, his personal trevails as a public figure, visionary, and perpetually persecuted genius, and the eternal battle between his inner demons; an album from which no single would be released, no cover would be produced, and only God himself would earn an official “featuring” credit. Sorry, Bon Iver.
And yet, in Australia, we get a much sparser production. And by ‘much sparser’, I mean we get literally none of that other stuff. Also gone: the five-act structure that defined the Yeezus narrative. Maybe it was all nixed due to the difficulty of bringing so much equipment – and one Yeti – halfway across the world, or perhaps the mixed reviews and disappointing ticket sales in the States called for more frugal international stagecraft. (He also fired his shitty, forever fucking-up DJ, though no one’s really complaining about that.)
In Australia, Kanye instead commands a mere runway on his lonesome, with a monolithic and imposing video monitor behind him. He emerged from the bowels of the Perth Arena as if rising from hell itself (it is pretty hot in W.A.) with Darth Vader’s Imperial March making way for the demonic drumbeat of ‘Black Skinhead’, performed with expected ferocity. It was, however, one of only four Yeezus tracks played throughout the evening – another point of differentiation between this and the American tour, where pretty much all ten tracks were played night after night, to the disinterest of a nation who had unforgivably purchased more copies of J. Cole’s Born Sinner than the honest-to-goodness masterpiece Yeezy had crafted for them.
Those maniacs. They blew it.
#2: Instead We’re Rewarded With Some Classic Kanye, A Reworked ‘Power’, And A New Finale
I list the above to set expectations, but certainly not to temper them: this is not an abridged show. (And relax: he still wears his trio of bedazzled Maison Martin Gargiela ski-masks for much of the concert; a wonderfully idiosyncratic relic of a once grander production that still confounds in the most delightful, enigmatic way.)
In lieu of ‘On Sight’ and ‘Hold My Liquor’, Kanye returned to previously excised setlist classics like ‘All Falls Down’, ‘Touch the Sky’ and ‘Gold Digger’, which were, predictably, received with great ceremony — as were the standards ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’, Cruel Summer favourites ‘Mercy’ and ‘Cold’, and his “superhero theme music” ‘Power’. The latter, the lead-off single from 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (which Pitchfork recently – and rightfully – declared the best album of the decade so far), has been reworked to feel more in line with the rest of the droning Yeezus; given the Trent Reznor treatment to sound as if it’s performed by the sentient instruments of an industrial plant, grinding and whirring in demonic synchronicity.
‘The Good Life’ was performed two times in quick succession, while his Yeezus highlight (and the best song of 2013, thank you very much), ‘Blood on the Leaves’, was similarly deemed so nice to play it twice: a reprise of the Nina Simone-sampling, massive beat-dropping track closed the show (instead of the beatific ‘Bound 2’, as per Yeezus tradition), after which he returned to the bowels from whence he came. The Yeezus tour was previously divided into the stages of Fighting, Rising, Falling, Searching, and Finding. Here, he seems to add ‘Descending’, giving its conclusion a more melancholy vibe. After 90 straight minutes of elation, it was 10pm, and it was already over.
#3: Kanye Still Loves ’80s Rock
The last time I saw Kanye, during his ‘Glow in the Dark’ tour following the release of Graduation, Kanye paid tribute to his deceased mother by performing Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.
This time around, he preceded ‘Cold’ — formerly titled ‘Theraflu’ — with Foreigner’s ‘Cold As Ice’. And people call him humourless.
#4: Kanye Still Loves Giving Sermons
The show’s second act begins with Kanye “resurrected” in a bath of white light, the hellfire and brimstone eradicated by the champagne-glass-clinking piano of his “toast to the douchebags”, ‘Runaway’. Midway through, Kanye addressed the crowd, who were hotly anticipating this, the most divisive element of his Yeezus tour: the sermon. I’d love to share with you the entire seven-minute transcript, but a lot of it is just about his sneaker line, so here are the highlights:
“It’s funny how people make [creativity] out to be a bad thing or something… It’s like, the world don’t have to understand me in my time, but they will understand eventually. And God understands, because he understands all of this is from our heart, and from a positive place, and I have no negative intentions or negative or ill will towards anyone. I just want to make my shit.”
“Now there’s only two times in history: Before Yeezus and After.“
“So I want to thank everybody who came here tonight that supports me and all of my creative visions, and some recall the ups and downs, but I don’t believe there was no downs. I don’t believe there are any downs. We’re just part of the movie right now. So soak these moments in, they go down smooth. One day I want you to tell your kids you saw Yeezus perform in real life.”
#5: Yes, Kim Was There. Settle Down, Everyone.
There were several occasions when the crowd absolutely lost their shit — but perhaps never more so than when Kanye made mention of his wife, Kim Kardashian, who had taken a prime viewing spot beside support act Pusha T at the lighting desk, positioned handily in the center of the Arena. Chill, everyone. It was as if they were more excited to see the creator of ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ than the man responsible for The College Dropout, Late Registration, and probably twenty of the past decade’s most absolutely, unimpeachably important songs; an icon whose music transcended genre, exploded race relations, recalibrated pop culture and redirected imitators towards increasingly perilous waters, where they either drowned or just gave up and starred in Need for Speed; an artist who demands hyperbole and earns it, and who delivered to Perth first, and soon the rest of Australia, a stripped-down and miraculously still-essential concert, “White Jesus” be damned.
Kanye West Australian Tour
Victoria: September 9 & 10 @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
NSW: September 12 & 13 @ Qantas Credit Union Arena
QLD: September 15 @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Photos by Marc Ash, for FasterLouder.