Tuesday, May 06, 2008


If you read this blog regularly, then you know my adoration for all things Justin Timberlake (Evidence A, B and C to start).

But I have some bad news. As awesome as the JT concert was...

Kanye was better.

The afternoon/evening got off to a great start when we saw Kanye. Yes, we saw him. We were on the highway headed back to Allison's in-laws' house to get ready for the show, so it was about 4 p.m. We had just gotten on the interstate when I look up from my BlackBerry and notice there is a sleek Lincoln towncar ahead of us, with tinted windows and a vehicle company sticker on the bumper. Or put more simply - a chauffered car. I point this out to Allison and encourage her to speed up. We lost the car for a while but got behind it again. Sure enough, the car got off at the same exit we did (Allison's in-laws live five minutes from the venue where the concert was being held). We followed the car until it got in the turn lane for the arena. Somehow I convinced Allison to get in the turn lane too. So we're directly behind this car at the red light, and I am so convinced it's him that I start bouncing up and down in my seat and waving. The silhouette of a hand appears near the rear window and waves back at us. As the car turned, I could see the silhouette of the passenger in the backseat was a male with a close crop haircut and sunglasses. IT WAS KANYE. I am convinced. Unfortunately, they did a U-turn at the light instead of turning into the arena (probably had to go a back way/wanted to lose the stalkers) and so we parted ways.

So in case I wasn't already excited, that did the trick. We got ready and headed to the arena where we parked the car and started to walk across the street to eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Not wanting to walk that long trek in my heels, I flag down a golf cart driver (Mike) who seemed more than happy to drive us to the edge of the road. My favorite part of that 3 or 4 minute ride was when Mike told us that this was "his kind of crowd" and that last week's Hank Jr crowd was out of control. Really? Kanye fans behave better than Hank fans? I never would have guessed. Especially coming from Mike, who looked/sounded like Hank's long-lost brother.

We eat dinner and make some friends in the process. I tried to buy a pair of shutter shades off a high schooler but he wasn't selling them (which ended up being fine with me, since I found a pair on the floor of the arena near the end of the concert [finders keepers!]).

Part of our shopping that morning included a trip to Urban Outfitters. Turns out I'm a little too preppy for most of what's for sale in that store, but when I found some candy grills (plastic grills with candy attached to the back) I picked out two of them for us to buy and wear to the concert - if we were feeling brave enough. Well after an hour and a half at the Mexican restaurant, we were definitely feeling brave enough. So before leaving the restaurant, we unwrapped our candy grills and popped them in. There were lots of people walking toward the arena at that point, so there was a nice audience for the debut of our grills. Luckily for us, we looked so ridiculous that no one was offended. Rather than start a fight, people just laughed at how ugly the grills were and how silly we looked.

Once inside, we got in line at the ATM where I continued making friends right and left. This is partially because the girl behind us (a Jordin Sparks lookalike) was yelling at the people who were taking too long at the ATM, and I was telling her what to yell. Additionally, I started asking every guy and girl I saw within 2 feet of each other "Are y'all together?" "Us? No." "You should get her number, she's cute!"

N.E.R.D. was already on stage when we got inside. We enjoyed the remainder of their set and then while the stage was changed for Rihanna, we began making friends. There were some people from Birmingham to our left and a young man in the row in front of us who had his name embroidered on his hat - Flo (real name: Dale [pictured below]). Marlin, Jen and Flo were the ones who told us the names of the famous people that were there. People would start screaming, and then we'd look to our neighbors to identify whom it was that people were screaming about. During the intermission before Kanye took the stage, security brought in Chris Brown, Bow Wow (who apparently dropped the Lil), Quincy Jones, some other producer, Mary J. Blige and Jermaine Dupri (though I was disappointed when I realized they were saying JD and not Jay-Z).

Rihanna's set was awesome. 30 minutes seemed too short for her since she had to squeeze a few of her songs into medleys. But of course she didn't disappoint with her best songs: "Hate That I Love You" and "Please Don't Stop the Music" and "Umbrella." She was great. Her dancers were a little distracting but overall, she's got her act together.

When the lights when down, Kanye's voice came over the PA and he explained how he'd been on a mission searching for inspiration so that he could bring creativity back to Earth. In short, the whole "theme" of the concert is that he crashed onto this planet because of a meteor shower with only one companion, his spaceship Jane. The concert opens with him waking up after the crash ("Good Morning").

Throughout the whole show, there was only one man on a very big stage (his band was below the stage lip). Any other artist would have seemed too small to fill up such a big empty space, but not Kanye. He commanded the stage before he even put the mic to his mouth and didn't let up for almost an hour and a half.

I was most impressed by how the momentum of the concert was never dropped. Every concert I've been to has a sit down moment, where even the artist needs to catch his/her breath. Not this guy. He went full out the entire time, pausing only after "Hey Mama," but even that built the momentum. He used silence and stillness (there was still music playing, "Don't Stop Believing" actually) to create energy! What a genius! He's that good and it shows how much thought was put into every step of the show.

There was no conversation with the audience - the things he said in between songs were scripted to develop the "plot" of getting him off the planet. During the show, he was reflecting on his past journeys, involving women ("Golddigger") and good times ("Good Life", "Can't Tell Me Nothing"), and if he could just get off the planet, he'd straighten up ("quit spazzing out at award shows!"/"Jesus Walks"). After "Hey Mama," while he was sitting, the spaceship/computer that he'd been talking to throughout the show told him that only he could get himself home (they needed the power of the brightest star in the universe to save them, and that was him). At that point, the show had crescendoed and crescendoed which made his final songs, "Homecoming, "Stronger" and "Touch the Sky"even more amazing.

Love him or hate him, you can't deny that the man is one of the most talented people in the music industry right now. His ego is part of his character. Watching him move on the stage, how he'd use his body and arms to crouch or stand up tall to emphasize his words, was like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, and at the time I didn't even realize it. But looking back, letting the show sink in, I am just awestruck with what he did. Some musicians sing/rap with their mouth. I think Kanye sings/raps with his entire being. The stage was his canvas - literally, it was lights, smoke, screens, and Kanye - and he painted a work of art I'll never forget.

We bid goodbye to our friends and left the arena decked out in our grills and me in my shutter shades. They make me feel anonymous. I think I'll continue wearing them this summer.

I really don't think I am overblowing this concert. I was dancing and taking pictures and enjoying myself the whole the time (and calling other people so they could enjoy it too... oops), but it wasn't until the way home yesterday that it started to sink in how phenomenal it was. And he PLANNED it that way, as illustrated by the last thing he said as he ran off the stage - "Don't act like I nevah toldya!" The magnitude/brilliance of what you saw doesn't hit you until later. Maybe it's because I am a musical person. I just appreciate what he did, the energy he brought to the stage, the obvious visible passion with which he performs. It was absolutely magic and I am dying to go back. Who's with me?

Good morning, Mr. WestThinking about Donda after "Hey Mama"Dancing to the end of "Flashing Lights"

chorus of "Jesus Walks"

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