Love him or hate him, nobody has loomed larger in popular music over the last decade than Kanye West, who just announced that the second leg of his Saint Pablo tour will touch down in Columbia at the Colonial Life Arena on Friday, Dec. 9. The Chicago rapper boasts massive commercial success, an unending streak of critically acclaimed albums, and more headlines, think pieces and gossip magazine inches than you could shake a stick at. Ridiculed and championed in almost equal measure, he cuts a bold, brash, paradoxical figure across our cultural landscape in a way precious few have before.
What gets lost in the click bait headlines and audacious rants of Mr. West, most of all, is the power of the music itself. His 2004 debut The College Dropout changed the course of rap music mid-decade, ushering back in soul samples and widening the thematic content of commercial hip-hop. His 2005 follow-up Late Registration saw him adding ornate orchestration and pairing socially conscious and hyper-consumerist streaks with grand ambition. From there he popularized more synth-driven and EDM-indebted pop flavors in rap on Graduation (2007), created a cult masterpiece and broached the possibilities of rappers singing and using Autotune on 808s and Heartbreak (2008), forged a prog-rap, all-star epic masterpiece with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), went full industrial-aggro house on Yeezus (2013), and then began painting with gospel shades on this year’s The Life of Pablo. Each record was greeted with critical praise, and each seemed to portend something critical about the zeitgeist, pushing popular music forward in surprising and unexpected directions.
Yeah, Kanye does the fashion thing. And the social media thing. And the questionable public speaking thing. But my god, is the man good at the music thing. Listen to the gorgeous vocoder solo of “Runaway,” or the revelatory coda of “New Slaves” as it segues cinematically into “Hold My Liquor.” Note the cunning intertextuality of “Gold Digger” or “Spaceship.” Revel in the vocal symphonies of “Dark Fantasy,” “All of the Lights,” “Waves” or “Jesus Walks.” Note the career-defining guest verses from Lupe Fiasco (“Touch the Sky”) Nicki Minaj (“Monster”) and Chance the Rapper (“Ultralight Beam”). And if you want to hear ‘Ye just deliver some bars, he’s got those, too (“We Don’t Care,” “Gorgeous,” “No More Parties in LA”).
Plus, ‘Ye is famous for delivering an absolutely great live show (Queen covers aside). The first leg of the Saint Pablo tour is just the latest in a string of epically audacious stage setups, and it received glowing reviews from national publications when it first debuted. It’s a fairly unique setup, featuring the stage floating above the crowd in the center of the arena, with Kanye attached by a string from above so as not to take a plunge. It rearranges the entire concert experience, providing multiple, unusually intimate viewing angles and setting the tableaux for an epic mosh pit in a way that looks positively sci-fi. Even if you’re not a fan of his music, it’s would seem tough to resist such a spectacle.
But beyond the over-the-top presentation, Kanye is the kind of Triple-A list headliner that comes to this Columbia once in a blue moon. Even if you hate the dude, be stoked for your city, dammit!
American Express Card members can purchase tickets for the date before the general public beginning Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. through Friday, Oct. 21 at 10 p.m. Tickets for the general public go on sale Saturday, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. at livenation.com, via the Live Nation app, at the Colonial Life Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone at 1-800-745-3000.