EmptyStaples Center, Saturday, June 7
Kanye West brought his Glow in the Dark spectacle in support of his "Graduation" album back to Los Angeles with a clear intention of making damn sure that he is the best.
Problem is, his shtick, his well-publicized raison d'etre, seems to only convince himself that he is the best. Worse, his rants later in the concert came off more as the neglected granny in a corner who complains that her oatmeal isn't warm enough. That's too bad, because the show was quite satisfying.
A unique and innovative setting finds West stranded on a barren planet after a crash landing, his only companion a faceless computer voice known simply as Jane, a direct borrow from "2001: A Space Odyssey."
West opened with "Good Morning," a dazed and confused look on his face as he ponders his predicament. As Jane assesses a status that sinks from bad to worse in several vignettes, West rolled through his impressive repertoire ("Through the Wire," "Diamonds From Sierra Leone") and recent fare ("I Wonder," "Good Life," "Can't Tell Me Nothing").
The setting paints a picture of utter aloneness, as his orchestra and background vocalist were ensconced beneath the set, invisible except from the sides of the stage. The astronaut devolves mentally from the solitude as he moans about a lack of female companionship. "Gold Digger" followed, with images of inflated doll faces on globes hovering over the stage and a gold-sprayed female writhing on three screens.
Just before "Jesus Walks," the computer attempts a blast off from the planet but fails, so West promises "to stop spazzing out at award shows," inciting a few ripples of laughter.
Ironically, West's intention to keep the spotlight solely on himself caused a neglect of any imagery of his late mother during "Hey Mama." A quick snapshot would have been a nice touch.
"Stronger" flowed into "Touch the Sky," where he was, finally, joined by fellow rapper Lupe Fiasco, who opened the evening, followed by N.E.R.D. and Rihanna. West closed with a rant on the media's misrepresenting his "high self-esteem" as braggadocio. He compared himself to John Lennon, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Madonna and Elvis Presley, boasting "You in the presence of greatness!" Such rants come off as more than a little irritating. If West can manage to release at least 10 great albums, then there may be a basis for respect. However, respect must be bestowed, not commanded.