Disclaimer: I do not love you like Kanye loves Kanye.
No hard feelings, but if you clicked on this article thinking to get a few pop-culture Kanye jokes and a couple of statements about how “hype” his concert was, you’ve come to the wrong place. His concert was one of the best nights of my life, and I love a “Kanye Doing Things” meme as much as the next millennial, but I believe Kanye deserves a different light shed on him than the limelight that has followed him for most of his career.
I am typically not a fan of shows in arena-settings like the one Kanye performed at. In fact, I even considered not attending after hearing the venue announcement. However, in the most Kanye-fashion possible, Mr. West took his concert experience to a new level.
Most arena shows include a stage to one side of the venue, a general admission pit, and seats sloping to the ceiling, creating a very distance and almost empty experience despite the astronomical number of people in the venue.
Kanye’s show included a gliding stage suspended above the pit that was surrounded by lights. Call it a reference to how he calls himself “God” or call it a business gimmick through maximizing the occupancy of the arena, but being in the pit and under the stage, I interpreted the positioning of the stage and Kanye himself as an all-encompassing, all-inclusive celebration.
The show included anything from "Graduation" to "Yeezus" and "College Dropout" to "The Life of Pablo." Overall, the show created a palette any personality could enjoy.
Dancing to “Paris” and belting the lyrics to “Runaway” were definitely high points of the show. Concerts, as fun as they are, however, should resemble experiences more than hitting shuffle on a playlist.
Towards the end of the show, the air thickened from the sweat of the pit, and the exhaustion of chasing the stage back and forth was apparent on every attendees’ faces. It seemed like everyone wanted the show to end but also couldn’t imagine a life outside the walls of the arena.
As the grim, dark, almost frightening “Wolves” track began to fade, the smoke that once blinded the lights of the stage dissipated as the smooth, slow, yet infectious beat of “Flashing Lights” emerged.
And this was the beginning of the end.
“Flashing Lights” from Kanye’s well-known album Graduation mainly speaks on the glamourous yet filthy lifestyle of fame and social-climbing- so why would Kanye begin the end of transformative show with such a petty-subjected song?
Thanks to his spontaneous political statements (Hurricane Katrina telethon) and infamous celebrity debacles (2008 MTV Music Awards), Mr. West has made himself a household name (I’ll let you decide if it’s infamous or not.)
Kanye has had his run in the media, and he knows the conversations sparked and the impressions made through his music and lifestyle. However, he also knows there is more to his life and career-purpose than the lime light or “flashing lights.” Kanye specifically began to close his show with this song to show the transition he has experienced before and after fame, and what he hopes to gain afterwards. As the monotone beat of “Flashing Lights” ran its course, the warm, compelling trumpets of “All of the Lights” culminated its way into the performance.
Differing from the rhythmic, consistent light show from the song before, “All of the Light’s” presentation of lights completely illuminated the arena, exposing anything and anybody in its reach.
This particular track is from Kanye’s album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a more poetic, almost symphonic piece of work. Each track from the album shows dark, beautiful, and even twisted emotions. In this particular track, Kanye exposes the trials of tribulations of life- not a glamourous celebrity life, but a raw, realistic, relatable one. Although the title and the performance illuminated trials and tribulations, it simultaneously hid the limelight and flashing lights previously shown, exposing the real and relatable Kanye those lights often hide.
Now for the end of the end.
As soon as the trumpets hit their last notes, the arena went black. Slowly, one beam of light emerged, eventually illuminating the arena with a soft glow. The subtle hums of Kanye’s final song “Ultralight Beam” began to fill the temporary silence- I knew something big was coming.
Kanye’s most recent album The Life of Pablo includes a mixture of tracks, tempos, and meanings. The complexity of the album reveals the internal complexity he faces. “Ultralight Beam” particularly presents the complexities he faces with his faith.
Ultralight is defined as a “small, light, single-seater aircraft” or “extremely lightweight.” Although the first two performances presented heavy topics involving many second and third parties, Kanye ends on a more personable, individual note.
Throughout the blinding flashing lights and all the exposing lights of Kanye’s lifetime, Mr. West clings to the lightest yet strongest light in his life: faith.
We will never know for sure how much Kanye loves himself or the true depths of his music, but next time you see a “Kanye Doing Things” meme, just know he’s up to something.