High Notes: Kanye West

Scenes from the Saint Pablo Tour

Written by Rosalie Cabison • Photography by Paige K Parsons, Live Nation • November 21, 2016

You’ve heard by now that Kanye West canceled the remainder of the Saint Pablo Tour. We hope that ‘Ye is okay and we have faith that his fans will get something in return—whether it is in new music or in rescheduled dates in the future. We were lucky enough to experience it and we have High Notes to share to commemorate the tour. Read on...

This is a God dream, this is a God dream. This is everything.

The Saint Pablo Tour setlist closes with Kanye singing these words over gospel chords. It's clear that the line from “Ultralight Beam” guides his vision for the entire Saint Pablo Tour production.

First, let’s address the floating stage in the room: The only way I can describe it is by referencing Toy Story. It moves across the crowd like the claw game, hovering over “chosen” fans like those cute green aliens from the Disney/Pixar movie. Under the stage, spotlights illuminate the Yeezus faithful, jumping around in the pit to his most hype tracks (“All Day”, “Black Skinhead”, “Runaway”, “All of the Lights”, “Good Life”).

For a person who gets criticized for being self-centered, Kanye shifts the focus to the crowd, performing in silhouette for the majority of the show.

The dream theme continues with orange-tinted lighting, blurry camera filters on the big screen and fog filling the 17,000+ capacity Forum of Inglewood. West is a director, we are all part of his movie: He starts a song and goes just long enough to get the crowd feeling it, then stops to talk. When Kanye speaks you can feel the entire room buzzing from energy, everyone just waiting for him to tell his DJ/band to hit it from the top again. When the song ramps up again it’s like popping a cork off champagne, and the crowd is even more into the song than they were the first time around. Kanye cracks a knowing smile when he hears his lyrics shouted up at him. In that moment, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the world having more fun than Kanye West.

Truthfully, the real highlight was the technical scheming I imagined was required to put on a single show of the Saint Pablo Tour—engineering, lighting, musical direction. I kept trying to sneak a peek into the booth to see what kind of wizardry must have been going on throughout the set.

Stray observations:

The few times that I caught a glimpse of Kanye West through his shroud of fog, I couldn’t help but notice how normal he looks for a person revered by his fans as a god. When Kanye raps, he looks exactly like any of your homies practicing Kanye West verses to learn the lyrics.

Special shoutout to the setup for “Fade,” where Kanye did some of the only all-out dancing he permitted for himself the entire show. Laser beams shot out (see below) and Kanye manipulated them by blocking out the light with his body. He waved his arms around like someone doing a tribute to Mary J. Blige. It was the best.

A photo posted by Jordan Kessler (@jkesss) on

What’s the ONE THING people need to know about Kanye West’s show? Just go. Or try to go. Even if he cancels it. Go to hate watch him. Go to worship him. No matter what happens, it’s an experience worth sharing because everyone in music has some sort of connection with Kanye West. Join the conversation.

P.S. I’m the worst person to ask for an opinion about Kanye West because I love him unconditionally.