Where is he?!
Warning: A few seconds of anxiety may set in when the lights go down at Kanye West’s Saint Pablo Tour. Social media spoilers aside, there are no points of reference to utilize in this moment. As darkness fills whichever arena you witness the greatness of rap’s most fearless entertainer in, you will be – quite literally – unsure. Unsure of where he will enter your field of vision. Unsure of how the mechanisms hanging in mid-air work. Unsure of which of his tracks will usher you into this mysterious world. When the anxiety runs its course, reverence will take over at the first sign of “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” And you will enter an alternate version of church service, during which you praise a deity.
Most gods are described as selfish entities, filled with the desire to fulfill their own wills at any cost – but Yeezus is the exception; he's selfless as he risks his safety and determined to enact the impulses that surround him. Suspended from his floating pulpit where he will deliver tonight’s (Sept. 6) benediction, West is hooked to its center by a bungee cord as the most dedicated members of his congregation mosh beneath him. Barely visible but ever-audible, the latest book of his bible, The Life of Pablo, fills his worshipers with a spirit that urges them to be shirtless, sweaty and unapologetically overzealous. Above the party of his patron saints, a gay couple is compelled to swap spit to the sound of his voice. Teetering on the lines between heaven and hell, Kanye West has curated a beautiful scene of anarchy, decorated with dim yellow and red spotlights, distorted screens and a generated faithfulness.
Thorough in the bestowing of his grace, West is sure to bless his subjects with his past righteousness. “I Don’t Like,” “Mercy,” “Power,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Runaway” and “Blood on the Leaves” serve as reminders of his Word, as his believers prove they have been studying his gospel intently, screaming each verse aloud. In doing his divine work, it becomes clear that Yeezus’s religious dwelling was crafted for his congregation to be the star. As “Wolves” spills from the massive speakers, his holiness is captured in an intimate moment with the gathering beneath him while hovering spotlights create a godly glow. Not too sacrosanct to place his body on the floor beneath him, West even lies across his drifting platform to touch one of his disciples’ hands.
This service is unlike others, where children are dragged into the building by their ears or elders swivel to hush the murmurs behind them. As the inspiration of “Good Life” and “Stronger” round out the ceremonious night, a single spotlight invites the spirit of Donda West into the room for “Only One,” red lasers emit for a rendition of “Fade” and the recessional begins. “Ultralight Beam” soundtracks the pending exodus as witnesses also serve as the choir, with hands extended as they belt out Kelly Price’s testimony. Before anyone is ready to return to Earth, the divinity of Kanye West vanishes.
When the light returns to Madison Square Garden, and the inside of its massive walls are made hollow again by the crowd’s retreat, the realization that Kanye West is just a man returns. There was no church; everyone was simply invited into a corner of his mind. He is not a god, but merely an artist unafraid. Unafraid of you. Unafraid of perceptions. Unafraid of risk. A living embodiment of disinhibition, Yeezy is an outlier, deranged enough to remain on the outskirts and occasionally have company at his cavern.
Name one genius that ain’t crazy.
(Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)