Kanye West | Allstate Arena | Hip-Hop | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Kanye West

Kanye West

Robb Cohen

When: Sat., Oct. 8, 8 p.m. 2016
Price: $29.50-$170
Kanye West has described The Life of Pablo (Def Jam/UMG/Good Music) as a gospel album, though his vocal performances often do a good-ass job of convincing people otherwise. His brash, sexist bars on “Famous” or “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” (“If I fuck this model / And she just bleached her asshole / And I get bleach on my T-shirt / Imma feel like an asshole”) suggest his concerns are about as tangible as the afterlife. What moves with the fervor and unbridled joy of gospel music are the sounds Kanye wields: he manipulates and shapes performances from an army of big-name contributors (Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Sia, Desiigner, Young Thug, etc), he melts samples till they sound like they’ve been doused in toxic waste, and he beams his glassy synths to the sky. Kanye’s postrelease tinkering with Pablo is a good case study in how technology has transformed the feedback loop between artists and listener, and how constantly “updating” a once immovable format amplifies and mutates the religious devotions of fans. Some have tracked the modified versions just as Deadheads have sought out decades of live bootlegs—Japanese producer Toyomu even made his own version of Pablo based on scraps of info available to those unable to hear the album due to streaming restrictions. The “Saint Pablo” tour also plays with religious dynamics. Kanye moves around an arena on a small platform suspended from the ceiling—the mini stage rests high enough above not to risk physical harm while low enough that members of the crowd have jumped up in an attempt to touch it. The platform beams bright orange lights onto the attendees standing directly beneath it, shifting the focus away from Kanye while encouraging those below to respond with abandon.
— Leor Galil

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