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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Review: Kanye demands perfection during Tampa show

TAMPA - Kanye West doesn’t like it when the lasers shooting out of the mountain “suck,” as he put it.

Nor does the multi-platinum star like it when the wrong lights are on, or when the gigantic, awe-inspiring LED screen above him shows his face in color when it should be black and white, or when an unseen woman named Laura forgets to give him the “deep voice” on his mic.

As you might guess by now, it didn’t take long for 7,408 Tampa fans to get a taste of the demanding perfectionism of West during his “Yeezus Tour” concert at the Forum on Saturday.

Just a few seconds into his third song, West demanded the music be stopped as he stormed off to the back of the stage. The lighting scheme wasn’t right, and those offending lights were to be turned off, “now,” he said, along with some harsher language for his technical crew that can’t be repeated here.

About a minute later it was fixed and West returned to deliver an inspired, crowd-thrilling “Send It Up” without missing a beat.

So it goes when dealing with an artist with as clear an artistic vision as West, and a production as audaciously ambitious as the Yeezus Tour — the rapper’s first solo outing in five years.

Is West right to demand perfection? Absolutely, but those quick moments of technical kerfluffle, which could have been ignored and addressed later, were a distraction to an otherwise gloriously bombastic, over-the-top, and yet somehow still beautifully minimal show.

The scene included mountains that became volcanoes, a platoon of faceless, body-suited, female minions who moved like reanimated corpses, and one of the most recognizable musicians on Earth performing most of the night with his famous face completely obscured by bejeweled masks.

West dangled perilously on the edge of a rising mountain cliff as snow fell from the rafters during “Coldest Winter,” kneeled before an actor playing Jesus after “Jesus Walks” and laid on his back while performing “I’m In It” in the center of an intertwined ring of nude-looking dancers. Visually, it was artful and compelling almost from start to finish.

The careful effort put into the set list, designed around five acts titled “fighting,” “rising,” “falling,” “searching” and “finding,” is impressive. There’s a definite narrative that progresses through the stages of West’s life and career.

It’s not only a “Yeezus” tour in name. West performed every track from the 2013 album, which may have made the first half of the concert a little tough for casual fans, or those only familiar with Kanye’s more accessible radio hits.

The songs on “Yeezus” are stark, brutally minimal at times and full of harsh effects and harsher lyrics that aren’t well suited for singing along or dancing, which is probably why a lot of the crowd was in their seats, or moving awkwardly for much of the show.

If you’re a hardcore fan of “Yeezus”-era Kanye, looking to really marinate in the darkness of those songs, you’ll love it all. If you’re not, hang tight for the explosive, celebratory final act, where Kanye loses the mask to hit you with “Flashing Lights,” “All of the Lights,” “Good Life,” and “Bound 2” to close the show. It’s worth the price of admission alone.

And yes, those who were looking to scratch “see Kanye deliver a live rant” off their bucket lists got to do that. Backed by a piano, West took a long break to riff on “nice, good, safe celebrities” who hold their tongue out of fear, dreaming that he was Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison and Nelson Mandela, and the way both “haters” and fans benefit him in the end.

“How many people you know that you talk to on a day-to-day basis that made a ... mountain open up in Tampa tonight,” he asked. “So all the other [things] I’m talking about, is it crazy or is it possible?”

By around the 14th minute, the crowd was getting restless.

Kendrick Lamar, a critical favorite who has become a major star since his first and only other performance in Tampa a year ago at The Ritz Ybor, opened the show, performing hits from his debut studio album “good kid mAAd city.”

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