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Concert Reviews:
Kanye West delivers a show worth waiting for at Joe Louis Arena
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- If an act doesn't hit the stage until more than 90 minutes after the advertised start time, it better come with something worth waiting for.

And Kanye West did on Wednesday night, Sept. 28, at Joe Louis Arena.

The famously temperamental, Grammy Award-winning rapper has been an envelope-pushing live performer since he began touring 2005, and his Saint Pablo Tour show set another inventive standard, a new way to present material from his eight studio albums. This tour's gimmick found West rhyming atop a platform that floated above the arena floor, floating backwards and forward, side to side as fans on the general admission floor moved along with it, creating ad hoc mosh pits and group dance parties.

Accompanied by a carefully synced lighting scheme from fog machines and an arena-length rig that also had plenty of moving parts, the effect was not unlike a large-scale dance club or rave, but with the MC controlling the flow rather than a DJ as West -- sporting a kind of peasant fatigue outfit with boots and gloves -- directed the healthy but not sold-out crowd through singalongs and call-and-response exercises.

It was a captivating sight that managed to remain fresh throughout the 100-minute concert. And West was smart enough to keep a few late-show surprises in his pocket, such as an arresting, angular stage and light rig configuration during "Wolves" and a wall of red lasers that dressed up "Fade."

Fortunately the sounds were as potent as the visions. West -- who refrained from his usual rants and only offered one extended exposition to salute the show's designers -- worked his way through more than 30 songs, a career-spanning set that included a generous dozen from this year's "The Life of Pablo" album along with big hits and covers of songs he features on, such as Drak's "Pop Style," ScHoolboy Q's "THat Part" and the Jay Z collaboration "Niggas In Paris."

Harnessed into the mobile stage, West was energetic and engaged, opening with the moody "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" before exploding into "Pt. 2" and "Famous." One particularly strong mid-show segment flowed "Jesus Walks," "Flashing Lights," "Highlights" and "Feedback" into each other in rapid succession, while the crowd did plenty of heavy lifting during "Heartless" and "Runaway." West shouted out to Detroit rapper Big Sean, a protege who he said was "in the building" on Wednesday, but the only cameo came from regular West cohort Tony Williams, who sang from the soundboard to segue from "Only One" into a short spin through West's Rihanna/Paul McCartney collaboration "FourFiveSeconds."

Security did manage to clear out the back portion of the Joe Louis floor so West could make a dramatic exit during the show-closing "Ultralight Beam," as he sang about how "This is a bad dream." Those attending the show would probably beg to differ, however; Save for the long wait for West to get on stage, it was another arena-sized triumph for the rapper.

West returns to the metro area for another show on October 6 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Tickets are $99 floor, $29.50-$89 reserves. Showtime is 8 p.m. but...well, you're probably safe to order dessert before the show.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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