I probably should have known 2016 was going to be The Year for the Cubs when Kanye West announced his tour dates. His two-day Chicago stop was scheduled for what was expected to be (and what turned out to be) Games 1 & 2 of the NLDS. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take a weekend night off from work for both NLDS Game 1 and a Kanye show the next night, I did the next best thing. I saw Kanye at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which was the show closest to me that didn’t interfere with meaningful baseball games. It also happened to be the tour opener. The following is a re-telling of the events of that evening.
We didn’t know it then, but Kanye West’s Aug. 25 show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis turned out to be a microcosm of 2016 for Mr. West.
At its worst, the set was disjointed, unhinged and unsettling. But at its best, it was the kind of performance you could easily justify driving 193 miles to see.
While the obvious focus of the Saint Pablo Tour was on tracks from his 2016 release The Life Of Pablo, West sprayed to all fields when performing that Thursday evening. And that’s fitting because I’m certain I haven’t been to an event with as much crowd diversity as that show. Standing in line only for the doors to open late wasn’t ideal, but it allowed me to scan the crowd in an attempt to capture the vibe of what might be on the horizon. West’s crowds are represented by teenagers, fans in their 60s and everyone in between. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ethnicity were well represented in the crowd that gathered to see West that night.
Among the many things that makes Kanye West great to me is his ability to create music that attracts many different kinds of people. For whatever reason, West’s music cuts across myriad demographics. The fact that West’s music can touch a city boy from Chicago and the guy next to him, the son of a farmer in rural Pennsylvania bows my mind.
I wish the same could be said about the entirety of the show. The late entrance led to a late start, which ultimately probably led to songs like Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2, Ultralight Beam, Real Friends and Waves — popular joints from The Life Of Pablo — being left unperformed. Also, the inclusion of a track like “Only One” made the absence of those songs more evident to me.
The fragmented performance of Blood on the Leaves and the ramblings during Runaway songs such as Black Skinhead are to be expected from a West show, but they serve to unfortunately break the rhythm of the show itself.
And despite that, West put on an amazing show that was highlighted by the fact that he was performing on a moving stage that hovered above the adoring crowd below him.
The floating stage was the epitome of what Kanye West represents. It was equal parts creativity that goes largely unmatched by his peers and the narcissism that demands he is the center of attention — literally and figuratively in this particular case.
As is typical for a West show, the crowd was entranced from the first notes of the sample West used for Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1, proving it was ready to go as it bellowed out “If Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot” to usher in the start of the show as West opened with Pablo’s lead track.
Crowd participation has become a highlight of West’s shows as his popularity has grown and he has evolved as an artist. Fans chiming in at the perfect time at a West show will give you goosebumps. The infamous “I made that bitch famous” line that caught the ire of Taylor Swift, the Pusha T ad-lib that starts the West-aided Chief Keef hit “I Don’t like” and the first words of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” were all belted from the crowd in sync to the point where you might have believed it was choreographed if you didn’t know any better.
No choreography needed when your audience is that in tune with your music.
No matter which Kanye is your favorite, you were represented in song at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on that August evening as songs from College Dropout, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus were weaved seamlessly throughout the night.
Unfortunately, I was left with the impression that the show ended with a whimper. Closing out with 30 Hours, Highlights, All Falls Down, Only One and Fade represented a decrescendo in a night that seemed building up to a bigger finish. The awkward ending left more to be desired, especially as West’s stage dangled with him on it as the lights came on. The show was over, but it was fair if you left unfulfilled because of the ending.
Hence, it was the show that summed up West’s 2016 in that you were happy for the experience despite being disappointed along the way.