I used to love Kanye. And I will admit, albeit begrudgingly, I somehow still do. But when I sit down to remember the 21st night of September, wherein I piled into UT Austin’s Frank Erwin Center along with over ten thousand other eager concertgoers for the Saint Pablo Tour, I can’t help but feel salty. And it’s not hard to understand why.
The Life of Pablo (TLOP) is an incredible album. As someone who has spent her life observing and adoring Kanye West, it was the culmination of so many of his other creative techniques from the gospel roots of The College Dropout (2004) to the electro-punk stripped-down minimalism of Yeezus (2013). TLOP is a truly raw, spiritual experience from start to finish. Not being pleased with the Saint Pablo tour itself is, then, in no part due to any problem I have with the content of the album he’s touring. So why exactly am I disappointed and frustrated with his performance in Austin last week?
Maybe it was the fact that Kanye ended up starting the show about 2 hours late, a move so incredibly unprofessional I felt insulted by how little he valued the time of his loyal fans, many of whom drove hours to come see him. Maybe it was the fact that he performed for barely an hour for us in Austin, after giving Houston a 2+ hour extravaganza the night before. Maybe it was the fact that his merch was composed of $95.00 long-sleeve Gildan t-shirts ““ you know, the same brand of shirts that cost $2.00 at Walmart ““ sporting designs that could’ve been devised in Microsoft Paint. Maybe it was the fact that I bought tickets way back in June as part of the Tidal Presale, tickets which put me out more than a couple of Benjamins. Maybe it was the fact that I felt like I did more vocals at the show than Kanye actually did, as he severely overused the “stop singing and hold the mic out to the crowd” move. I’m sure my saltiness is due, in no small part, to the previous concert experience I had with Kanye: the Yeezus tour, an earth-shatteringly magnificent auditory and visual spectacle that has proven impossible to forget.
While all of those things collectively were enough to make me feel disrespected and ripped-off, I also was confused by the setlist. Yes, we got some key throwbacks like Stronger, Heartless, Touch the Sky and Can’t Tell Me Nothing, which energized the crowd and helped me feel a little bit less angry at Ye. Considering this was indeed the Saint Pablo Tour, however, there were more than a handful tracks of that were conspicuously absent. Both 30 Hours, my personal favorite track off TLOP, as well as No More Parties in L.A., a unanimous fan favorite, were not performed. Highlights and FML were also no-shows. Perhaps most strange was the lack of the actual tour namesake track, Saint Pablo, a six minute masterpiece we all had expected to hear at the show. I assume that the gaps in the setlist were a result of the show starting about 2 hours late, which just frustrates me even more. Kanye had an arena full of people who support his lifestyle out of our own pockets, and he couldn’t even be grateful enough to his fanbase to give us the show we paid for. As someone who has seen over fifty individual acts live, none of which were in festival environments, that’s something I have never before encountered and hope to never encounter again.
Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t all bad. I did have fun dancing my face off, and what songs he did play sounded pretty fantastic on the Erwin Center’s sound system. The small square stage that levitated above the general admission crowd, which was a pulsating mosh pit that looked like the sickest party since T-Pain at Trinity last fall, was cool. The rest of the stage set up seemed like an impressive feat of engineering. The red lasers during Ultralight Beam were trippy and gorgeous. Yet having been spoiled by Yeezus, the minimalism Kanye was going for on this tour really seemed to fall flat, as jaw-dropping visuals have come to be a key part of the big concert venue experience. I’m sure if I was a wee-bit more obedient of a fan, I would call it “art” and refuse to criticize it, but I’m not that blindly adoring anymore after having been ripped-off by the West’s offensively short performance.
Yet if I’m being completely honest, I’m still a sucker. If Kanye came back to Austin or San Antonio tomorrow,I would drop everything and go. I love and respect him as an artist that much. But my experience at Saint Pablo made me feel like maybe I shouldn’t love and respect him that much, considering it isn’t mutual. Despite being a lifelong fan who thinks his music has only gotten better with each creative project, I’m left feeling like I really do miss the old Kanye.