Review by Michael Eidelson.
Kanye West made his presence in Montréal known as soon as he landed in our beautiful city. Journalists flocked to the airport to catch a glimpse of the widely influential artist catching a ride downtown with his notorious wife Kim Kardashian West. The hip-hop mogul took the reigns at the Bell Centre for an entire two hours and didn’t let a single minute go to waste. There was no need for an opening act to hype up the crowd for his performance; his stage presence alone had people screaming in sheer joy. The Bell Centre was packed to the brim with dedicated Yeezy fans wearing their newly purchased Saint Pablo merchandise that was classically priced at $50-100 a t-shirt. Everyone (including myself) couldn’t contain their excitement as roars from the crowd filled the auditorium with a wall of constant noise which after a few minutes settled down when Kanye made his way onto the stage.
The stage arrangement was one of the most unique set-ups that I’ve ever came across. Suspended in the middle of the arena was a platform that was big enough for Kanye to roam around on. Throughout the show the platform would move from one side of the giant stadium to the other so everyone would get a chance to see eccentric rapper. Kanye was safely strapped into a harness to make sure that he wouldn’t fall off the platform while performing. Those lucky enough to snag those pricey general admission tickets got to dance right under the stage where Yeezy was performing, the audience looked incredibly hyped to be there and moshed to all of Ye’s biggest hits.
Kanye started off the show with one of the more popular tracks “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” from The Life of Pablo which came out earlier this year. The track made it’s smooth transition into “Pt. 2” which features a sample from the hit single “Panda” by Desiigner and had everyone lose their minds. The entire stadium was out of their seats and fed themselves off of the crazy amount of energy that Kanye presented to our lovely city. There were nearly no breaks between each track, as soon as one song was finished the instrumental would pick up for the next track and Kanye would get right into the thick of things.
Mr. West performed most of the tracks off The Life of Pablo during the two hours he was on stage. Dispersed throughout the Saint Pablo setlist were tracks from his older albums that felt fresh while being performed in front of thousands of die hard Yeezy fans. The transition from “Power” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to the track “Blood on the Leaves” from Yeezus escalated the amount of energy that was already present in the stadium. Looking around the audience it was clear that everyone attending was having an amazing experience being apart of the craze.
My favorite part of the whole show that stood out from the rest of the performance was the transition from one of Kanye’s most famous songs “Gold Digger” from Late Registration to “Touch the Sky”. It was a surreal experience seeing these old cuts from one of the most influential artists of our time being performed on the live stage. As soon as the brass horns on “Touch the Sky” sounded off the audience in unison started screaming and rapping along with Kanye. Everyone was hyped and had no choice but to keep up with the mad amounts of enthusiasm that was felt in the crowd, the Bell Centre was constantly roaring with excitement.
Famous hip-hop producer Mike Dean, who has worked on many projects with Kanye West in the past, was in charge of the instrumentals that backed Kanye’s vocals. During “Waves” Kanye started rapping the first few lyrics and turned to Mike and said “Hold up Mike let’s run that shit back and do this proper” to which Mike obliged. A similar instance happened with the song “Fade” where Kanye looked at Mike Dean again and said “Yo run this shit back from the start and add in the vocals this time. We need to do this right and give y’all the true experience.” The audience lost it. They treated everything that Kanye had to say to them as the word of God.
Kanye closed the show with “Ultralight Beam” which was a brilliant way to conclude the night. It was calming but didn’t get rid of the immense amount of life that was flowing in the giant stadium. In the distance people could be seen wrapping their arms around one another and swaying to the beautifully rich production that’s provided on the track. By the end of the song Kanye remained suspended on the platform for another few minutes while everyone looked up in awe. Security made the general admission attendees clear the centre of the stadium, the platform started to lower itself down to the ground floor. When the platform touched ground more security guards showed up and escorted Kanye backstage as he waved good-bye to Montréal.
The whole show was magnificent and will forever be engrained in my brain. The constant flow of energy, the smash hits and the immense population of the crowd made Kanye West’s Saint Pablo stop in Montréal a truly unforgettable experience.