On Sunday night at Tyler, the Creator's Flog Gnaw Creator festival, I looked up at the imposing screen next to the main stage and saw men. Thousands of them. Pressed together and compacted like sardines, only visible faces are seen when they stare at the stage before them. The camera on the festival stage trained among the crowd when the stage was readjusted for Kanye West's debut and Kid Cudi's Kids See Ghosts project, and the information was a good indicator of crowd demographics. While some women had faced the absurd infatuation of the crowd, the audience seemed to be largely composed of young men, most of whom appeared to be teenagers and up to the age of twenty. They had traveled miles and waited for hours to witness something similar to religious experience: the return of Kanye West.
For the past two years, since a presentation in California two years ago that precipitated a mental breakdown that changed his life and career, Kanye has been more visible but less present than in his entire career. All the live broadcasts, the TMZ interviews and the trade shows have concealed the fact that, by keeping a Cubs game here or a fashion show there, Kanye has not really connected with his fan base in the same level at which I used to do it. There have been no awards appearances, few performances on television and, fundamentally, no public shows. 2017 was the first year in more than seven years when Kanye did not play at least one set live, festival or otherwise.
That fact might seem standard in terms of how most artists travel, but not for West. Kanye West's live show has always been an integral part of his art, an opportunity to explore the increasingly dense content of his records. Kanye's records almost do not work without the live show. Where his albums have been a space for hedonism, nihilism and unbridled ego, the live stage for Kanye has always been closer to the church, a space for him to breathe, to atone for the sins he has confessed and, over everything, to unite people. The last three tours of Kanye, Glow In The Dark, Yeezus and Saint Paul, were all, in the background, about the mission under the grandiloquent art of Kanye. It was about finding redemption, in whatever form you can take.
Over the years, he found different ways to bring the public closer to his vision of transcendence. Initially, this happened through pieces such as moons and mountains and waterfalls, but finally, in its journey through San Pablo, through engineering, a floating stage that could be seen as well from the bottom of the room as from the floor . (Lady Gaga recalls that Kanye once told her that she would never sell a ticket for a seat with impaired vision – the stage of San Pablo was a natural progression of that ideal). His shows, so strongly influenced by the communal nature of the gospel as they were The musical aspect, was designed so that thousands of people could come together and find what he had found through his music. During the tour of Yeezus, he began to give a speech during "Runaway" about the importance of being oneself, loving oneself, strengthening oneself. These speeches were sometimes characterized as screams, but they were more like sermons and sometimes they felt divine.
For Kanye, his live shows served as a reminder that, despite his rarefied celebrity status, he still spoke with the same kind of people he had grown up with: dreamers, devotees and fans. Every time he felt that Kanye's records were about to disappear in a cloud of drops with names and couture references, the shows took him to the ground; it was almost as if he needed them to remind himself that his fans loved him because of his vision and not because of his immense state.
Because of this record, I thought that the Kids See Ghosts show on Sunday night could be the beginning of a new era for Kanye, one that eliminated MAGA hats this summer and the revisionist cracked stories, and instead looked towards the community spirit that defined his previous work. In Ye Y Children see ghosts, he made dark albums that would be the perfect prelude to a classic Kanye show; It would have made sense that this set offered explanations and, perhaps, expiation. This was, of course, incredibly naive. Instead of a redemptive counterpoint, Kanye and Cudi offered a dark and emotional distillation of the hyper-masculine imprudence that developed through Kanye's work over the past two years.
If there was a topic that went through both Ye Y Children see ghosts, was that Kanye and Cudi are looking for a kind of freedom within a society that they believe will never allow them to be free. For Cudi, freedom means living without the depression and addictions that have plagued him during his career; For Kanye, freedom is a little more complicated. Through his Wyoming records and his associated press cycle, he almost felt like he was looking for a line to cross in the public's eye. Kanye has always wanted to overcome the limits of what is good taste and what is not, and this time, it feels more personal. The freedom of the gaze of society, as Kanye expressed it in his summer work, only comes when one has lost all the love of society. The most revealing lyrics of his two Wyoming records appeared. Children see ghosts"Reborn", when he admitted that he wanted "all the pain", "all the smoke", "all the guilt". For Kanye, liberation comes with exile.
True to that ideal, the Kids See Ghosts program leaned into this desperate need for oblivion. The setlist of the show, beginning with The life of Pablo"Father stretches my hands" before going through all of Children see ghosts, two songs of 808s, "Persecution of happiness" by Cudi and, finally, YeThe "Ghost Town": it was unusually dark for a Kanye show, and centered on songs with blackened emotional cores, some over fucked up or fucked up. "Welcome to Heartbreak" and "Paranoid" received rare exhibitions and their origins in the most emotionally broken record of Kanye, their inclusion seems to be revealing. The only solo track by Cudi that was performed was "Pursuit of Happiness", and that was also felt in one piece with the somber nihilistic inclination of the show.
Instead of reusing the floating stage design of the San Pablo tour, Kanye and Cudi were suspended in a large Plexiglas box. This staging was typically in the nose: Kanye was dressed in dark clothes in his glass prison, looking at the audience; Cudi, with a huge white jacket, surrounding him like a redeeming angel, but undeniably forced to look. Both Kanye and Cudi remain magnetic interpreters, even when they are hidden and deformed by sheets of Plexiglas, despite the fact that Kanye seemed to have trouble pronouncing words in points. Little banter was delivered between songs and, apparently as a way to address his lack of political discussion, Kanye clarified that he and Cudi were "simply