An entertaining live show is something very hard to pull off. One would think that if a song is popular on the airwaves, then that automatically equates high quality when performed live. However, that is not always the case, because in order to give an entertaining live show, you must involve the audience to a point where they feel the same emotion that you as the performer is trying to evoke into your songs. Enter, Kanye West, arguably the hottest act in hip hop and r&b right now. His sped up soul samples have quickly became a staple in hip hop resulting in him having simultaneous #1 songs on both the hip hop and r&b charts. If you have listened to any urban radio station for at least 15 minutes, you have probably heard one of his songs. Also, his debut album 'College Dropout' is the 3rd highest first week selling debut album for a hip hop artist to date.
As expected, it was a sold out show, and as the crowd sat in anticipation of what to expect, I couldn't help but wonder what type of performance I would be given. How long would it be? Would it keep my attention? What songs would he perform? Then all of a sudden, Kanye West hits the stage, and the crowd goes into a frenzy. The show starts by Kanye doing a sing-song freestyle over the smooth sounds of his accompanying pianist/vocalist. Technically, it was not so much a freestyle, but more so a compilation of various hip hop quotables (i.e. Jay-Z, Common, etc). Still, none the less, it worked well over the piano driven instrumental. Then, just when the crowd was getting comfortable, he transitions into "Stand Up". He used the same Ludacris hook, however combined it with one of his own freestyles which gave the already fresh song a dimension of its own. Following that, he used the same formula with Talib Kweli's "Get By". One thing I noticed is that he customized his lyrics to the artist in which track he was performing to. Meaning, he did heavy punchline driven, charismatic rhyming with Luda, but flipped the script and did more of a conscious, political rap to Talib.
After the introduction, he then got into his album. He performed '2 Words', 'Spaceship', 'Get Em High', and 'All Falls Down'. To my surprise, he was able to evoke the same heart and soul into these tracks being performed live, as he did on the LP. The fact that the piano played as a backdrop to these songs only added to the overall experience. After performing about half of his albums tracks, he switches things up a bit, and goes into one of his finest r&b produced tracks "You Don't Know My Name". However, make no mistake about it, he added his own spin to the track, and entitled it "I Still Don't Know Your Name". Starting out by talking on his cell phone similar to the way that Alisha did in her video, then the sing song verse landed him at the girls crib all to find out that she was on her period, but still managed to get something out of it, and at the end of the night....'Still Not Knowing Her Name'. Interesting way to take an already popular track and totally switch it up into a story of your own. Made me wonder if he writes songs to all the beats he produces for other people. Kanye then goes into some of his Black Album produced cuts. He performs excerpts of 'Encore', 'Lucifer', and '99 Problems'. All performed well, and just long enough to not make us get bored with him performing 'everyone else's' songs.
At what seemed to be the end of the show, he performs his two smash hits 'Through The Wire', and 'Slow Jams'. Both were done very well, TTW was because of the added background vocals in which you could clearly understand what was being said in the chorus. I was thinking I'd feel a little empty after 'Slow Jamz' because he was only one man in a song that originally has two other people. But, with an added verse of his own, it made me almost forget that Twista had a verse on the song. Kanye then leaves the stage. While feeling satisfied by a pretty diverse, soul-infused performance, I couldn't help but thinking that it was a rather short set. We were approximately at the 35 minute mark. Obviously the crowd thought so too, because in unison, they all started chanting 'Kanye'. I am thinking to myself that its a wrap, because it is trademark to perform your most popular songs at the end of your show. Well, was I ever wrong, because I started to hear the feet stomping, which only meant one thing (for those of you who own the album)....."Jesus Walks". My personal favorite song on the entire "College Dropout" cd, and easily got the crowd very hype. He lowered the beat for his last verse of the song so that the lyrics could be heard clearly, and surely enough, as he predicted at the end of the verse, everybody in the club was screaming out "Jesus Walks".
After that, he then performed the remaining tracks off of his album such as 'Family Business' and 'Last Call'. Once he was done performing virtually every track off his album, skits and all, he then performs some more of his produced tracks from artists such as Twista and Dilated Peoples, as well as the the track "We Are The Champions". He then closes out the show with a freestyle that lasted about a minute and a half done. There is something about hearing a person freestyle live that makes you appreciate it more, because all I could keep saying to myself is "Kanye can actually flow". The show in total lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, which was pretty impressive considering that he has only one album to his name. I have been to shows by artists I won't name (Nas) who have nearly 10 albums, but cant give us at least an hour. Kanye had a hype man, but it was almost as if the hype man wasn't there, because Kanye captured every syllable of his lyrics, and his breath control was virtually flawless. Overall, I would give the show an 8 out of 10. Kanye has loads of potential as a live performer, and even though I have heard some negative things about his live set prior to the concert, he really brought his A-Game to Orlando. Go support the College Dropout Tour when it comes to a city near you!