Call me Russ L

The prettiest people do the ugliest things

Posted in Music by Russ L on 6 March, 2006

I couldn’t remember whether the ticket I’d bought for Kanye West at the NEC on the 28th of February was seated or standing. It turned out to be seated (look, I’m old), which is especially good since they let you take bottles in, unlike on the arena floor (a repeat of this nonsense being therebye avoided). Even better, they now give you a plastic bag to carry them in with. That’s good thinking.

Drinks were purchased and a chair at the back of an aircraft hanger was claimed and sat in, anyway, while G-Child from Radio 1-Xtra did his fire ’em up hip hop DJ thing. The first two support acts got a huge total of two songs each. I had no idea about the first guy’s name and obviously couldn’t make out his face at that range (not that I’m very good with faces to begin with), but the power of the internet has revealed that it seems to have been Shawn Emanuel, who I saw supporting Beyonce at this very venue two and a half years earlier. Small world, eh? His doesn’t seem to be especially interesting r’n’b, although the muffled sound at this stage didn’t help. The second artist was a rapper who said his name twice and I didn’t catch it either time. Again (through the muffled sound) he didn’t strike me as anything interesting in himself, but his beats were good – the first a hyperactive affair bouncing about all over the place, the second a dramatic sort of thing with sharp slices of strings. (Edit: Aaaah – it was Lupe Fiasco. Since the gig I’ve actually been enjoying the two songs on his MySpace Page a lot).

Keyshia Cole was the main support. I knew who she was beforehand, but she thoughtfully performed in font of a great big banner with her picture and name on it just to make sure. Her set provided an example of how an arena will sometimes give you the space to observe that someone is overcompensating for that same space. Whaddya mean that’s gibberish? She was really hamming it up, singing and emoting to the galleries, and in a more personal venue I’m sure it would have looked like she was really giving it some. If it had been even a little bit more effective, it would have suited the situation, but as it was she just missed and ended up looking like she was simply overacting. It wasn’t enough to spoil things, of course, it just added a slightly more ludicrous air to her set. I’m not sure what to say – her songs didn’t seem amazing, but something about her intrigues me in a funny way. She did have some good beats, of course, and it’s always heartwarming to see that an artist can find time for lengthy between-song rambles and cover versions (Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down”) in a short support slot. Colour me undecided for the time being.

Kanye West himself (unsurprisingly) got a huge response from a crowd eager to see him (even by the standards of the number of people there. Trust me, I’ve been to a few of these things now…). It was an interesting set-up: an 11 piece string section (with harp), a DJ and two backing singers. No side man. As you can imagine with all of those strings, ‘Jesus Walks’ was huge. ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ were predictably fantastic, and ‘Crack Music’ was powerful. I’m not keen on the accompanying nonsense that came with “Bring Me Down” (excerpts from bad reviews were displayed on the big screen behind the stage while people were encouraged to boo along with Kanye’s presecution complex. “Yeah, they have different opinions about music to us, ain’t they stooooopid…” I don’t hold with that rubbish, sorry), and we didnt get ‘Never Let Me Down’ (unless we did and I’ve just forgotten), but that’s just being picky. The highlight for me was without a doubt ‘All Falls Down’ – hearing Syleena Johnson’s voice that loud is a near religious experience (he should have bought her out on the tour with him. Or someone should…).

I only found out on the news the following morning that there had been guns a-blazin’. I categoricaly deny all involvement. Ahem.

~ Russ L

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