By now, most of you reading this know what happened the last time Kanye West played a festival.
It was last June, at the Bonnaroo fest in Tennessee, and Kanye's show began two hours past its scheduled timeslot, at almost 4:45am. To semi-borrow a line from Kanye's "Stronger," the audience members were waiting for him since Prince was on Appollonia, since O.J. had Isotoners...or so it felt at the time.
Unsurprisingly, when Kanye finally did hit the Bonnaroo stage, he was practically booed right off it. (I'm guessing his other line from "Stronger"--"You should be honored by my lateness"--didn't go over too well with the irritated, sleep-deprived crowd.) Later Kanye angrily blogged about this Bonna-booing, claiming the incident wasn't his fault. But the damage was done, and whatever good will Kanye had gained after the tragic, sympathy-garnering death of his mother was now officially squandered.
So on Sunday at Lollapalooza, Kanye returned to the festival circuit hoping to redeem himself. He was playing his hometown, Chicago, but obviously not all was forgiven just yet, judging by the attire of this creative concertgoer:
(Incidentally, this guy was at Bonnaroo, where he impatiently bailed on 'Ye to go watch Phil Lesh. Tonight at Lolla, he was planning to watch Nine Inch Nails instead of Kanye. And can you blame him?)
I was pretty annoyed, make that downright tormented, by the Sophie's-Choice scheduling conflict of NIN and Kanye on simultaneous stages--this was one case when I would have preferred Kanye to run a couple hours late, so I could see both acts--but in the end I decided to give Kanye a chance. However, things were not looking good when Mark Ronson, performing on the side stage across the field, played 15 minutes past his 8:15pm end time--as this indicated that Kanye was in no hurry to get on his own stage. It was already 8:30pm (Kanye's supposed start time), and yet Mark was still playing like he had all the time in the world.
But then, at 8:36pm (according to my calculations, and my calculator watch), there he was, on the main stage: Kanye West, in the flesh. At least I think it was him; Kanye had banned photographers from entering the pit close to the stage, and the fog surrounding him was pea-soup-thick, so it was hard to make out anything too clearly. But there was some shadowy sort of lantern-jawed, shield-sunglass'd, metallic-sneakered, hoodie-shrouded showman onstage...and pretty soon it was obvious that indeed the man of the hour had arrived. And he'd arrived within the correct hour!
"This is what you waited all weekend for!" Kanye then hollered, indicating that he hadn't been too humbled by his Bonnaroo backlash. But he stayed in the audience's good graces with continuous shoutouts to his hometown--especially during his Chi-City ode "Homecoming" and a solo version of his Young Jeezy duet "Put On," during which he adlibbed, "We put this city on the map/I put this city on my back."
He also namechecked the Chi when namechecking his beloved, departed mother, Donda West. "It was hard for me to perform my first song when I saw all of you," Kanye admitted, and for a moment I thought he was going to address the Bonnaroo debacle. (He never did, by the way.) "Because there was only one person missing who should be here. The woman who drove me to Chicago at the age of 3 and said, 'Baby, this is where we're gonna start our life.'" Then everyone in the crowd exploded upon hearing his "Scream for my mama!" command.
Of course, it wasn't all hometown pride and sad mama's-boy nostalgia during Kanye's show--at one point he practically compared himself to John Lennon, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix, believe it or not. But he showed up at a decent hour, played a more-than-decent (actually, an extremely amazing) set of nonstop hits ("Heard 'Em Say," "Through The Wire," "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," "Flashing Lights," "Touch The Sky," "Gold Digger," "Jesus Walks," "Good Life"), and even did a totally unexpected cover of Journey's victory ballad "Don't Stop Believin'"...so all in all, it was definitely a triumphant return for the hometown hero.
I guess people of Chicago didn't stop believin' in Kanye. As for me, I still kinda/sorta secretly wish that Kanye had been tardy, so I could have caught a bit of Nine Inch Nails...but in the end I'm glad I didn't stop believin' in Kanye, either.
- Kanye West