Staffer: Cedar Pasori
Venue / Date: Barclays Center / Nov 19 and MSG / Nov 23
Seat Number: Section 19, Row 18, Seat 17 (Barclays) / Section 210, Row 18, Seat 6 (MSG)
Favorite Part: Watching Kim in VIP watch Kanye perform "Cold" (Barclays) / Kanye yelling "Do you want Eric Schmidt to invest in DONDA?" then dropping "All of the Lights" after a resounding crowd "YESSS!!!!" (MSG)
Level Of Kanye Fandom: I am personally and professionally obsessed with Kanye's contributions to (and collaborations in) visual art and culture, beyond the music.
Number Of Times I've Seen Kanye Before: 4 (Glow in the Dark Tour, Coachella, Watch the Throne Tour, Governor's Ball)
Overheard: "Twerk team!" x 10 said by guy struggling to put on one of the free ponchos given at the entrance of MSG (that no one ended up needing)
No one excites me in popular art and music more than Kanye West. I previously saw him during the Glow in the Dark Tour in San Jose, at Coachella, during the Watch the Throne tour in Los Angeles, and at Governor's Ball, so going to Yeezus at both Barclays and MSG was a no-brainer. I had to. I had to see what he would do to top the futuristic, Technicolor spaceship journey of the Glow in the Dark tour, the red suit and ballerinas of his festival shows after MBDTF, the lavish, Givenchy-clad Watch the Throne tour, and the pared down yet vibrant set at Governor's Ball just before the release of Yeezus.
At the Barclays Center show, Kanye brought up Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorosky during one of his rants (or as he calls them, "visionary streams of consciousness"). He said, "saying Jodorowsky's name and ya'll don't know who the fuck he is when everybody copied off of him." After publishing The Design Evolution of Kanye's Live Performances on Complex only a few days before seeing him at Barclays, I wondered what was actually uniting the Margiela masks, mountain, installation of women in nude masks and body suits, and religious overtones (the Jesus actor, a procession). Our Pop Culture editor Ross Scarano and I responded by discussing how Jodorosky's 1973 film The Holy Mountain was the obvious thread, making Kanye's stage setup and narrative a tribute to the surreal, mystifying story of a fallen thief attempting to climb the Holy Mountain.
The impressive stage met Kanye's athleticism, screaming, and interactions with the installation of women (I assume that artist Vanessa Beecroft choreographed them) to provide the five-part story of Fighting, Rising, Falling, Searching, and Finding. It was, at times, very painful and sad to watch. At MSG, he screamed, "I need your help! I NEED MONEY!" in a way that elicited equal parts empathy and pity, and many parts of the show were at that exact emotional intersection. You felt bad for him but also joyful with him. You could relate to his frustration but also couldn't understand how someone who says he is "a god" could have and articulate so many limitations.
Beyond the The Holy Mountain comparison, the multiple visionary streams of consciousness, and the borderline assaulting brilliance of the spectacle that was his stage design, Kanye said two things during his three-part "rant" at MSG that sum up what impressed me the most. He said, "I wanna build mountains, I wanna give you more." Then he added, "Don't ever let them tell you I'm crazy, because I believe in you." You realize that his message is ultimately positive and matter-of-fact. His show and his message have undeniable urgency, and you didn't have to be there to realize that we need more.