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Concert Reviews:
Kanye West Glows In The Dark At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

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AUBURN HILLS -- During his 85 minutes on stage Thursday night (May 22) at the Palace of Auburn Hills, rap superstar Kanye West posits the idea that things would have been different for "2001: A Space Odyssey's" David Bowman -- or, for that matter, the gang on "Gilligan's Island" -- if they were stranded with a microphone, some mad rhyming skills and some swanky A-V technology.

They might have gotten out of their particular stranded situations, mind you, but they would've had a helluva party.

It was sheer energy and a body of formidable hits that drove West's show -- part of his Glow In The Dark Tour supporting his Grammy-winning 2007 album "Graduation" -- before a non-sellout crowd of mostly white teens at the Palace. They knew the words, and they knew the moves, with hands in the air at all the right time. And that helped mitigate a performance that was vocally potent but conceptually soft.

The show's premise cast West as a space traveler whose ship, operated by a computer named Jane, crash lands on "a nameless planet" somewhere in the universe. On a stage set fabricated to look like deserted terrain, with two video screens behind him and a some lightweight special effects to further embellish the scene, it was a loose hook at best but allowed West to effectively weave songs from his three albums into kind of narrative, with plenty of room for favorites such as "Heard 'Em Say," "Through the Wire" and "Gold Digger." That Jane ultimately repairs the ship -- because, she says, "We need the brightest star in the universe. We need YOU, Kanye! You are our only hope." -- was about as big a surprise as the late-show romp through hits such as "Jesus Walks," "Stronger" and "Touch the Sky."

Amidst all this West delivered a solid and forceful performance with some standout moments -- his dervish dancing during "Flashing Lights" and his particularly passionate vocalics on "Can't Tell Me Nothing," "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," "Hey Mama" and a long rendition of "Good Life." But as someone so adept at collaborating, both on his own records and others', West is still not a commanding individual presence, and on the large-scale stage set he often seemed small -- especially with a large, moat-like orchestra pit for his band creating a significant distance from the audience that made the concert seem more clinical than West intended.

There's no question West put plenty of heart into his performance, but the staging and concept, while ambitious, robbed the show of some of the soul that separates West from many of his hip-hop peers.

The Glow In The Dark Tour did give plenty of bang for the buck, though, not just with West's portion but also via its opening acts. Rihanna (and her dancers), a sinewy Lupe Fiasco and a rowdy, rocking N.E.R.D. each offered up hit-laden, half-hour sets that generally worked, though all were burdened by extremely bottom-end heavy sound and only Rihanna's stood up to West's night-ending spectacle.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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