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Kanye West @ O2 Arena (London)

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Working through tragedy, Kanye West certifies his Stadium Status.While many wondered whether the show would go on; Kanye West made it to the stage in fine form during Thursday’s (11/22) sold out concert in London. Two days after his mother’s funeral, West showed that the best way for him to cope with his grief was to get back to work. Arriving to the intro of “Stronger,” that faded into “Good Morning,” West ripped through classics including “Touch The Sky,” “Spaceship,” “Through The Wire” and “All Falls Down.” Delivering his lyrics with passion and fierce emotion.Near the end of this highly charged show, only the third since 58-year-old Donda West died from complications after plastic surgery and the first since he buried his mother, Kanye performed his tribute to her, “Hey Mama.” Head bowed, lit from behind—the only time TV screens on either side of the stage were switched off—he sang and rapped softly his tale of this single mother’s lifelong support of her only child. An angel appeared on the screen behind him. Having become inconsolable when performing it in Paris last Saturday, here he reached the last chorus which includes the lyrics: “Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I’m so proud of you. I appreciate what you allowed for me, I just want you to be proud of me.” Before momentarily breaking down, Kanye then wiped his eyes and put his head in his hands whilst the audience gave him a three-minute standing ovation. “I got pretty far in that song today. I got pretty far,” he said proudly, before dedicating the power ballad “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Seventies rockers Journey, to his mother; telling the crowd “It’s exactly what I think she would want me to do and that’s not stop believing.” (story continues below)It was an unlikely choice for a cover, but West couldn’t be less like other Hip-Hop stars. From his tight trousers to his use of a full band and a string quintet, numerous costume changes and the dazzling visual spectacle produced, this was galaxies away from the traditional rap set. He didn’t even employ the obligatory hype man to shuffle around saying “Put your hands up in the air” occasionally.Past shows have been gripping but the powerful emotions he must be feeling meant that he really grabbed this night by the throat, rapping with a fire and energy that was remarkable to witness. Until the band introductions and “Hey Mama” he had said nothing between songs, racing from hit to hit and barely breathing. Tracks which are laid-back on his third album, Graduation, such as “I Wonder” and the Coldplay collaboration “Homecoming,” became even more edgy and passionate. Lines took on greater, more immediate meaning in the context of his bereavement. “That which don’t kill me can only make me stronger” in the raging electro of “Stronger”; “When it feels like livin’s harder than dyin’/For me givin’ up’s way harder than tryin'” in “Champion.”(story continues below)Often ridiculed about his ego, Kanye was nothing but reserved and humble during the two hour performance. He handled himself with dignity, and it turns out that when he’s not telling you that his are some of the greatest songs of the past decade, in any genre, there comes the realization that they really are. The only downside of the night was that the rumours that were wide spread in many of the British Newspapers and websites that Jay-Z would show up and perform during the show turned out to be false; the only special guest was Common, who is supporting West throughout his European tour. But then Kanye didn’t actually need anyone else; he more than delivered by himself.This was truly a concert that was painstakingly thought-out and well-executed. Kanye showed that the days of two turntables, a microphone and half heartedly mumbling on the mic might work for some artists but he is light years ahead…with all 20,000 people throwing up the Roc sign and singing along word for word throughout the show; Kanye most definitely is Stadium Status!West’s UK and Ireland tour continues in Brighton on Saturday (11/24) and ends in Glasgow on 4th December.

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