How much Kanye West is too much Kanye West? Or is there such a thing as not enough Kanye West? I pondered these questions at the beginning and end of an innovative Red Rock casino concert put on by hip-hop’s super ego.
Before you could get to the outdoor arena—basically VIP bleachers bookending a stage set up on an Astroturfed area within view of the pool—you had to traverse an unwieldy line to finally get through the doors to the pool area, where 24,000 constantly misdirected guests (a number touted by bantering fans) were slow-herded through airport-style metal detectors. I wondered whether the lack of crowd control most reflected West’s popularity or Red Rock’s miscalculations.
This takes nothing away from West, mind you. (Not that he’d let me.) He generally puts on a show commensurate with his ego. At the Aladdin a few years ago, he brought a mini-orchestra fronted by hip-hip violinist Miri Ben-Ari. The musicians sat behind a flowing sheet so that you watched their silhouetted bodies. For an awards show a few years back, he donned drum major’s attire and invited an entire college band to rock with him.
These work well when he’s the main attraction. Which means there’s little room for nuances or extravagances for Lupe Fiasco and the Pharrell Williams-fronted N.E.R.D., setup acts on West’s “Glow in the Dark Tour.”
But it doesn’t mean they can’t shine. Critically acclaimed in his own right, Fiasco did exceedingly well, delivering an energetic performance topped by “Daydreamin’,” his Jill Scott-assisted ode to zoning out. More people knew lyrics to his songs than I would have imagined.
There wasn’t a precipitous drop in energy during N.E.R.D.’s performance so much as there was a lot of transference: less lip-synching, more crowd-surfing and a lot of House of Pain-style jumping around on stage. It was visually, if not musically, entertaining. Lacking mainstream cred as a group, Williams & Co. would’ve done better to run through the voluminous catalog of Neptunes-produced hits for the likes of Snoop Dogg.
For most of the night, a huge thingamajig hidden under a black sheet took up the majority of the stage. When the curtains dropped, we found West laying down in an elaborate replica of Earth, like he was the last person alive. Dressed part preppy, part Mad Max, West blew through hit after hit, advancing the plotline between songs by talking to a computer.
By the time West hit “Gold Digger,” many in the crowd seemed, well, tired. The night was getting long in the tooth, and space-age novelty was wearing a bit thin. Plus, he had at least a handful of hits he’d yet to cover. Some people left. Had they had too much Kanye? Soon as he disappeared—for a quick change of clothes, we found out—many bolted. Others stayed, however, wanting even more.
April 25, Red Rock Resort