Sunday, 6 July 2014

Kanye West & Pharrell Williams at Marlay Park (2/7/14) - A Review

There were a number of reasons to expect big things from Kanye West and Pharrell Williams in Marlay Park on Wednesday- the Yeezus tour was West's first solo concert series in 5 years and its epic scale has been acclaimed by critics in the US since late last year, with many going as far as to proclaim it one of the finest concert going experiences they'd ever witnessed, while Pharrell is currently experiencing a career renaissance that has seen the eternally youthful producer/songwriter reach even greater heights than with his original hip-hop project N.E.R.D and endlessly creative production duo The Neptunes.

The crowd that gathered in Marlay Park seemed perhaps only at mid capacity and was just as hyped for Williams as West, with a predominately teenage girl following present for Pharrell in particular, and he played up to this contingent straight away and throughout his set, claiming love for the Irish girls in attendance and predictably sending them wild. Unfortunately though it seemed Pharrell addressing the crowd in between songs was the most he used his voice throughout as he appeared to mime the majority of his vocals for the entire performance, often barely making the effort to conceal this fact on tracks like opener ''Lose Yourself To Dance'' and ''Marilyn Monroe''.

The set, while remarkably short, was chosen well considering the crowd involved- Pharrell hand picked a number of songs from his most famous collaborations including Snoop Dogg's ''Drop It Like It's Hot'' and Gwen Stefani's ''Hollaback Girl'' which excited the crowd, although the best moments came from a midsection which featured a trio of N.E.R.D tunes in ''Rock Star'', ''Lapdance'' and ''She Wants To Move''. The finish however left a lot to be desired, as Pharrell combined several his most recent mega hits into one combination, in the process cutting short three tracks that the entire audience were waiting to hear. The result was an obvious disappointment and an anticlimactic ending to an average show as ''Blurred Lines'', ''Get Lucky'' and ''Happy'', all of which should have been highlights that improved the performance, were instead grouped into a rushed ending that defined the set as a whole.


The anticipation burning through the audience was plain to see in the short wait before Kanye took to stage, and upon his appearance around the 9 o clock mark we get down to business pretty quickly with an electric start as ''Black Skinhead'' and ''On Sight'' open the show with plenty of energy and a good response from the crowd, but things go straight downhill from there. The next batch of tracks are taken from a variety of guest features and compilations that featured West rather than his own material, and it's plain to see this isn't what those in attendance were waiting to hear as ''I Don't Like'' (Chief Keef) and ''Clique'' (Big Sean) get a deservedly underwhelming reaction.

Aside from a poor song selection early on it's obvious that Kanye himself is distracted and unhappy, particularly with his tour band, whom he regularly instructs to restart certain tracks when they aren't going his way, resulting in a disjointed feel to the set that continues throughout. Even when we're eventually back on track with a setlist that sounds more like the artist we paid to see (''Can't Tell Me Nothing'', ''New Slaves'', ''POWER'' and ''Hold My Liquor'' restore some order), the disruption continues as West storms off stage several times mid song due to his displeasure with the sound (most notably during half a ''Niggas In Paris'' performance), showcasing that well documented ego and antagonistic persona in the worst possible light in front of a bewildered Irish crowd.

It would certainly have eased the atmosphere if the tracks were up to scratch but even songs that should have been highlights are disappointing, the worst example being 9 minute Dark Fantasy epic ''Runaway'' which is reduced to a boring and unemotional climax that alienates the audience and stands in stark contrast to the studio version, one of West's greatest ever moments. After the lowest point of the set so far, the performances and energy thankfully begin to pick up, and for the remainder of the gig we are finally granted the concert experience that had been expected from the very beginning with highlights such as ''Heartless'', ''All Falls Down'', ''All Of The Lights'' and ''Good Life'' bringing us home with style and triggering an explosion of noise from the grateful thousands in Marlay Park.

After a series of well executed tunes that have finally inspired the crowd, the ending is spectacular to match with Yeezus' finest excerpts ''Bound 2'' and ''Blood On The Leaves'' sending fans into a frenzy, the latter marking the moment of the night as West displays the kind of passion that's been trapped behind the rapper's diamond mask for the majority of the night.  On conclusion, your opinion of the concert may be blinded somewhat by a far stronger second half and glorious finish to match, but the reality must be that this was a hugely disappointing night by the standards you should expect from an incredible artist such as Kanye West.

The fact seems to be that throughout a performance muddled with unprofessional temper tantrums and a complete lack of relationship between artist and audience, Kanye West simply doesn't respect Ireland enough to deliver the kind of performance that has seen the Yeezus tour become so widely acclaimed around the world over the past year. The statistics are self explanatory- America and Australia got 35 songs that spanned the length of West's career and celebrated his magnificent contribution to music over the last decade with a cinematic stage set up, while this Irish gathering of devoted Kanye fanatics were handed down a second rate, festival standard collection of 20 tracks that rarely hit top form. By the end of it all, West's declaration that ''I hope you remember this night for the rest of your life'' comes off less like a statement of genuine pride than another example of delusional self admiration. It's the final nail in the coffin and the final insult on a bitterly disappointing night that proves Kanye's ego is always working hard, even when he most certainly is not.


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