Bursting onto the stage with vigour amongst the throbbing bass and sampled screams of ‘Black Skinhead’, Kanye West immediately makes up for his delayed arrival.
Sporting a designer mask made from jewels that obscures his face, West bounds around the stage confidently exhibiting all the star qualities that make him one of hip hop’s biggest names. The crowd hangs on every word of his dextrous wordplay, shouting back with fervour the choruses to hits like ‘Clique’ and West’s remix of Chief Keef’s ‘I Don’t Like’.
The energy levels that reach a summit through ferocious renditions of ‘Power’ and ‘Stronger’ suddenly screech to an abrupt halt in the middle of ‘Runaway’ as the music takes a backseat for West to address the crowd with a signature 20 minute monologue.
West’s words are enlightening, covering topics from media intrusion to dishumanisation, a word he “just coined… maybe”. His delivery is passionate and engaging, laced with visceral emotion: “Fuck my face!” he exclaims at one point before laughing and continuing, “That sounded wrong, this isn’t about my face.”
The majority of the crowd however don’t seem to share this viewpoint: boos ring out in abundance; beer begins to fly forwards; and people shuffle backwards to the exit. Perhaps a headline slot at one of Britain’s most notoriously commercial festivals isn’t the time nor place to turn preacher, but with Kanye West the music is inseparable from the personality. His refusal to be constrained by expectation is amongst his most valuable traits.
Anyway, it’s their loss, West is soon back to reeling out the tracks that have earned him his headline status tonight, resuming with assurance and good humour. “We’re going to play something extremely underground,” he declares just before the triumphant horns of Rihanna-featuring ‘All Of The Lights’ start up to wild cheers, “Oh you know this one?!” he laughs with mock surprise. Never change, Kanye.
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