So I am going to start this review off by saying spoiler warning. Now you’re probably asking yourself “spoiler warning… wasn’t it just a concert?” No. You’re wrong. What Kanye West did on November 21st, 2013 at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. was much more than just a concert where he performed all of your favorite songs wearing an outfit that was worth much more than the price of your ticket. Kanye West put on a show that had a beginning, middle, and end. He had a story to tell with costume changes, characters, and even varying set pieces. It was obvious that this show was very methodical and well-thought out with each song being another step into the direction Kanye was taking to tell his story.
So without further adieu…let me tell you about my experience at the Yeezus Tour.
It was probably something like 6:30 pm when we got to the metro in College Park, Maryland. Walking up to buy our tickets we had already found a group of people singing ‘Bound 2’ off of Yeezus so I struck up a conversation and asked them if they saw the music video that accompanied the song that came out recently. We were all in agreement that it was horrendous, but it did not hinder our excitement at all. Waiting for the train I could tell 80% of the people around us were all going to board for the same reason: seeing Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar in Chinatown. The train arrived at 6:57 pm and it was 24 minutes until we reached our destination.
Leaving the train station, passing scalpers and police officers, it was a 30-second walk to the doors of the Verizon Center where we were searched with a metal detector and allowed to enter. Deciding to stand in the merch line behind about 50 people, sounds of a crowd cheering started to resonate through the arena and, at that point, I jumped out of line and quickly made my way to our seats on the second floor. Right as we walked in, “Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar started playing and I was ready for the night. Kendrick performed with a live band behind him for about 40 minutes with the highlights being ‘Backseat Freestyle’, his verse from “Fuckin’ Problems” (which he performed twice in a row), Wale showing up and doing “Clappers” (with Kendrick playing the role of hype man), the 1st verse of “m.A.A.d city” (where everyone in the audience, at the same time, pumped their fists screamed “YAK YAK YAK YAK” over and over again as Kendrick kept running it back feeling as satisfying as the time before) (at this moment specifically I would like to apologize to my friend next to me who I punched in the arm because of a fist pump gone wrong. So sorry…but I was pretty excited), and a spoken word rendition of “I Am” from the Kendrick Lamar EP. One thing I did appreciate about his set was the visuals that accompanied every song like mini music videos that connected to each other, telling different stories from his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city. Kendrick Lamar puts on a good show with an amazing presence and complete control over the stage. The only gripe I had was that he performed the remix version of ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ that I am not a fan of and he ended the show with “Compton” which is not my favorite song off of his album, but it did go with the theme of bringing the city of Compton to the people of D.C. Kendrick thanked everyone and walked off the stage quietly to the loud cheers of everyone in the arena.
The lights came up and everyone waited. At this point I sat down and watched the stage being built in front of me. Seeing pictures from the show online in the weeks prior, I was aware of some of Kanye’s aesthetics like the mountain that I saw being constructed. There was a 30-minute break and, at exactly 9 pm, the Verizon Center went dark.
The show was broken up into five acts, which I will use as a guide to separate the different parts of the concert.
The beginning notes of “Hold My Liquor” started playing and the word “Fighting” appeared on a giant screen above the stage. A pitch-shifted voice started reading the cryptic and almost vague text underneath the word which acted almost like a definition or an explanation. One giant white light started to shine on an area at the end of the stage and the army of women with great butts in body suits covering everything except their hair appeared in front of everyone. The music that started to play was abrasive and they took their position in the front part of the triangular shaped stage. The figure that walked up to them wearing a black Martin Margiela mask was Kanye West and, at this moment, everyone started to cheer and just watch and wait for what was about to happen next. “On Sight”, the first track off of Yeezus, started playing and everyone went wild. “New Slaves” dropped after this and got an even bigger reaction than “On Sight” with everyone singing the first line of the song for Kanye. A hype Travi$ Scott (I’m pretty sure it was him) could be seen at the corner of the stage dancing in his familiar style. Kanye then ended the first act with his verse from “Mercy” that left me speechless because that beat, even though his verse is a bit crappy, is amazing.
Kanye’s army of great asses walked off stage and everything went dark with those “Hold My Liquor” notes playing again. The word “Rising” appeared on the giant screen and the voice came on for a second time to read to the audience. The beginning drums of “Power” were hitting hard over and over again as everyone started to clap and sing along. A light shined onto the mountain on stage and Lord Yeezus appeared at the top like Moses announcing the Ten Commandments. “Power” went into “Cold” from Cruel Summer and then into Ye’s verse from the “Don’t Like” remix. After this he performed “Clique” from the same album. “Black Skinhead” dropped to ecstatic cheers and applause and then came my favorite song off of Yeezus: “I Am a God.” The tip of the triangular stage rose into the air as he played the last couple songs of this act, which were welcomed throwbacks “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (which had me and someone a couple rows in front of myself rapping to each other) and “Coldest Winter” (which he introduced with a story of his mother passing…all while just lounging on the part of the stage that had risen up). So it gets a little weird at this point of the show. Kanye walks down and then what looks like a lion/alien/Attack the Block monster hybrid starts to walk onto the risen part of the stage and just kind of sits there for a few minutes not really doing anything. I did have a pretty good laugh watching it walk up onto the mountain at the back of the stage and hanging out there.
The lights went out and “Falling” appeared on the giant screen with the same “Hold My Liquor” notes playing and the voice coming back on to read to everyone. The notes led into the actual song that had everyone singing along to the blunted Chief Keef hook. After playing “I’m In It” (which has an amazing energy) and “Guilt Trip” (which the crowd wasn’t feeling very much), Kanye played another 808 hit: “Heartless.” All the terrible singing from me and the people in the arena aside, this was a good moment because everyone knew the words, so, like a campfire, we all joined in singing along. The song ended and Kanye started talking…and talking…and talking. Here we have a prime example of an auto-tuned “Kanye rant” where he talked about the Yeezy 2s and how no one from Nike would talk to him after he dropped the shoe. Like I said he was auto-tuned so it was hard to make everything out, but I heard something about South Park, which I thought everyone forgot about because it happened ages ago, but Ye likes to hold grudges. During the rant, I also think he called himself the “black Steve Jobs” which he likes to do a lot. At this point I got bored and annoyed so I sat down and waited for him to stop talking. It was a low point of the night and I wasn’t sure how he would bounce back, but he did. The piano note dropped and “strange fruit hanging…” could be heard to cheers and applause because everyone knew what was coming. When those horns dropped on the Verizon Center and fire shot up from the stage it was over. I couldn’t contain myself at this moment and all I could do was scream the lyrics back to Kanye. The mountain that was built on the stage started to turn into a volcano with lava pouring from it as the beat grew and got louder and more aggressive. Anyone who has heard “Blood on the Leaves” knows about the energy this song and the beat has, so just imagine that times five with fireballs shooting behind Kanye West in a black diamond-encrusted mask and lava appearing on the stage. I felt rejuvenated at this moment and was ready for what was going to happen next. Now you might be asking, “hey, what about that creature thing that appeared…what’s going on with that guy?” I think he left but I’m not sure because I stopped paying attention but there was a point in this act where it looked like Kanye and it were about to engage in a battle a la Optimus Prime and Megatron on top of the mountain which would have been pretty awesome but he just yelled lyrics at it and I think that scared it away.
The lights fell again and, in the same fashion as before, “Searching” appeared on that giant screen introducing the next act. After reading some words I stopped caring about, the mountain that was once a volcano now opened up. Kanye’s sexy army walked out of the opening looking like members of a clergy dressed in all white. One of the clergy members grabbed a box located next to the stage and placed it in the middle of the triangle as Kanye walked out now wearing a white mask and trench coat almost looking like the Elephant Man. “Lost in the World” was the next song, which I didn’t mind, but I would have preferred maybe “Dark Fantasy” because that’s one of my favorite songs off of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy but it went with his theme. The stage was now empty and all that was left was Kanye and his box. He removed the cloth that sat atop the box to reveal an MPC and everyone knew what was going to happen next. Probably the most enjoyable part of the concert to watch was “Runaway.” His personality and sense of humor really started to shine through at this moment as he put one finger in the air teasing everyone of what was about to happen. He played the first note of “Runaway” and literally ran away. He ran across the stage dramatically as everyone laughed wanting to hear the second note. Putting his finger back into the air, Kanye stared at everyone and just basked in the anxiousness the crowd had. We all needed to hear the second note wanting the drums to drop and “look at you” said over and over again. His finger hit the MPC, the drums dropped, and everyone was satisfied. There was a few minutes of darkness after “Runaway”, which had me sitting down because I was getting pretty tired, but out of nowhere I could hear “work it, make it, do it, makes us, harder, better, faster, stronger” and I stoop up immediately singing along as neon lights started to shine on Kanye. The nostalgia couldn’t have been at a higher level, but I was wrong. He dropped “Through the Wire.” I’m going to say it again…he dropped “Through the Wire.” I was amazed. I love this song! I remember watching MTV with my brother and seeing the music video without realizing the affect Kanye would have on me in the years to come.
Okay now on a less serious note. Remember that creature I mentioned earlier? Forget about it. Why are you bringing up old shit? Ye is about to take it to another level. It was now time for the final and strongest act of the night: “Finding.” Just like before it went dark and the words appeared with other words and shit and a voice reading them to everyone, I was used to it. It wasn’t very exciting anymore. I hope you’re sitting down for what I’m about to tell you because it’s going to get nuts. A light came from the opening of the mountain again with what sounded like operatic singing starting to play and then Jesus deciding to come say what’s up. Kanye could be seen on his knees as Jesus walks up to him, blesses him, and, right as he starts to walk away, guess what happens. Give up? “Jesus Walks.” Boom. At this point in the show Kanye loses his mask, which represents probably finding himself and his true identity or something and he is only wearing a t-shirt and some designer ass pants with some designer ass shoes. Neon lights started to shine and “Flashing Lights” was next leading into “All of the Lights”. Also, in between these two songs, Jesus appeared on top of the mountain watching over Yeezus as he performed his hits. “All of the Lights” had a very elaborate stage show which included smoke, red lights, and torches that were lit on the mountain by his female army in unison with the “cop lights, flash lights, spot lights, strobe lights” etc etc. He ended the show with “Bound 2” which I assumed he would because of the release of the video recently and because of the message behind the song. The live performance made up for how bad the music video was and I think he ended the concert well.
Kanye disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared as the lights came back on. There was a wave of groans throughout the arena because we all wanted more, but, at the same time, felt satisfied with what we were just presented with. I immediately jumped into the merch line, bought a shirt, and left for the crowded metro full of people who had just been blessed by Yeezus.
I’m still digesting the concert, but, as I sit here, drink my tea, and eat my damn croissant while writing this I can’t help but feel something akin to homesickness. I was comfortable at that show and I felt like it was something personal I was able to experience with 2000 other people. Kanye West puts on a damn good show that sets the bar very very high for the rest of the concerts I will attend. I couldn’t have imagined a better opener for Kanye West than Kendrick Lamar who really held his own and put on a great show. Mr. West has established himself as a multi-talented artist who is a great producer, a smart rapper, and someone who can put a show together and keep people entertained for more than two hours. I could sit here and try to connect the five acts to each other and decipher the overarching story but I’d rather just relive my experience and be thankful that I was able to be part of Kanye’s first tour in six years.
The opinions and views expressed here are the opinions of the designated author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or views of any of the individual members of Dead End Hip Hop.