By Tim Rayne
The one and only time I saw Kanye West before the “Yeezus” Tour at the Palace on Thursday night happened in 2004 at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. Kanye’s record label had just released “Jesus Walks” off his College Drop Out album. As Kanye has mentioned a thousand times, he could not get a deal at that point because record companies were afraid of how the world would react to a song as powerful as “Jesus Walks.”
Here’s the thing, Kanye already knew. He already knew that was the song that would catapult him to superstar status. Even when I met him backstage at that show (something he would never do now), he was humbled, happy and grateful that a radio person told him how much they loved “Jesus Walks” and the album.
That Kanye has since come and gone — however, his Yeezus show at the Palace on Thursday night proved one thing: He’s still got passion.
Standing in the middle of The Palace of Auburn Hills was a giant, makeshift mountain. Like the mountain you used to dream about winning on Nickelodeon’s Guts. You know, the Aggro Crag? This was Kanye’s Aggro Crag.
Wearing a mask for the majority of the show, he opened with cuts from the Yeezus album, which he released this past summer, with robed women lining the mountain. Kanye spewed tracks like “On Sight,” “Send It Up” and “New Slaves.”
The crowd at the Palace then sang into the hook of his “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” track while the triangular platform raised above his 10,000 Detroit fans. Kanye explained how he was told his mother, Donda, had passed back in 2007. He was in London when his friend told him she had complications after a routine plastic surgery procedure. He said he was inspired to write “Coldest Winter” while snow fell from the roof of the Palace.
This leads us to — The Rant. When I read reviews of this show before I witnessed it myself, I wasn’t surprised to know that Kanye West spends close to 30 minutes talking to the crowd about his favorite subject — himself. When you see Kanye in the media, he is only allowed a few minutes to talk. But now, you paid $150 to see him rap, he might as well jump on his soapbox and give you the full-length version of his life.
You’ve already seen this movie. “The media doesn’t understand me; I do it for the fans.” He went on about how he produces music for the fans to like, how he didn’t have a say in Nike’s decision to only make a limited number of Yeezy’s shoes. Kanye said he wanted everyone to have pair. I’m not sure if this rant was done to paint him as more of a good guy, but he saw a platform to tell his fans, “what you hear isn’t always true.”
What is true is the incredible laser light show that followed. Seguing into hits like “Stronger” and “Through The Wire.” Then it happened. I was waiting to see how Kanye was going to introduce this racially diverse crowd to Jesus. Yes, Jesus. The Aggro Crag split in half; light emerged and out came a barefoot man in full robe, brown beard and long hair.
Kanye finally removed the mask to the enjoyment of the crowd. He kneeled before this Jesus character and whispered “Jesus.” Lets just say, it wasn’t subtle: Thank you Captain Kanye Obvious. He ran right into “Jesus Walks,” which by far got the biggest crowd reaction of the night. It was followed by “Diamonds of the Sierra Leone” and a sea of diamonds fell from the air to the crowd, who were finally relieved to hear the songs they came to see. He closed the show with “Bound 2” off the Yeezus album.
So what was my overall take on the show? I was impressed, but I’m a Kanye fan. This show exceeded my expectations but it wasn’t about my expectations. It was about how Kanye was going to top…Kanye.