Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kanye West @ The Molson Amphitheatre, May 21

If you know me, you know I love Kanye West. (And Stars. And Billy Bragg.) Where others only see a pompous blowhard with questionable rap skills, I see him as a super-talented and surprisingly genuine crossover star with three stellar albums under his belt (including my No. 1 album of last year, Graduation).
     And while I’ve adored his records, Kanye and his highly anticipated Glow in the Dark concert didn’t impress. Much was made of his high-tech, high-concept show — in which Kanye plays a lost space traveller searching for home — but I found it to be a stretch and somewhat dull. By playing so close to a “script,” Kanye didn’t engage the crowd as much as I would have liked, nor did he add much musical variation — a shock considering how innovative he is on disc. “Good Life” was the night’s best song, in part because of what he did differently: he used a Roger-style vocoder for the Akon-sung chorus, and quieted a section down so the crowd could whisper a refrain.
     The rest of the show, however, was loud, aggressive, and unexpectedly monotonous — more what I would expect from a traditional hip-hop show. Which is ironic coming from Kanye, whose appeal comes from his crossover ambitions and envelope-pushing techniques. A shame.
     The surprise of the night came from Rihanna, one of three opening acts (the others being N.E.R.D. and Lupe Fiasco — in a stupendously short four-song set). I expected very little from her, as Rihanna’s hits (including the clunker “Umbrella”) haven’t done much for me. But she showed, with her better-than-average voice and in-control demeanour, that she’s the purest performer of the bunch.

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