Last night, one of the biggest tours of 2008 landed at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center. Kanye West brought his “Glow in the Dark” show to town, and some early tour reviews of his own performance have not been flattering: like when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer proclaimed “Kanye was feeling the love — for himself”, or when he gave a shout-out to the city of Seattle only to remember too late that he was playing a show in Sacramento. Maybe the guy pays attention to his own press, because he did a fine job in Austin this week. The show is bordering on overkill in the bells-and-whistles department, and it lacks much of an authentic musical feel with a house band relegated to the orchestra pit below, but Kanye’s show is both entertaining and kind of important.
In a recent Spin article, Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell bemoans the lack of credible headliners in today’s live-music landscape. In short: there are no new rock stars these days. Which can help explain why this year’s annual Voodoo Music Experience will be headlined by the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Nine Inch Nails. Good bands, but exciting news? Maybe in 1994. Kanye West, however, has proven himself to be one of the only current kings of the mainstream. Just about every song during the show was met with thunderous approval. Who cares if the show was tacky at times and self-indulgent? West has united fans, critics, and cynics unlike any other pop act today. With thousands of cheering fans from widespread demographics, it was easily one of the most invested crowds I’ve been a part of in recent years. It was a stadium show, in every sense of the word. And, in today’s age of pop music, that is a rare thing to see and even more rare to enjoy.