“This album is actually a Gospel album.” That’s what Kanye West tweeted about “The Life of Pablo” on Jan. 27 earlier this year. It’s no secret that West is a devout Christian. It’s also no secret that West fancies himself a god.
On Oct. 1, thousands were gathered in Quicken Loans Arena for the Cleveland leg of the “Saint Pablo Tour,” his first North American tour in three years. West will be performing across the United States and Canada through December.
The night did not start off perfectly, as many fans were stuck outside of the arena due to a malfunctioning ticketing system. This caused the show to be delayed by about 30 minutes. While some fans might have had a hard time getting in, a few celebrities and even a king were in attendance. The crowd erupted when LeBron James walked into his suite before the show started. An “MVP” chant started in the crowd once they recognized that James was actually there.
At first, it didn’t look like there was a stage—or at least, what one would think of as a typical stage: all on one side with a big screen behind West. Instead, there were screens facing each side of the arena and a massive deck of lights sprawling from one end of the general admission section to other. When the show finally started, the stage revealed itself: a massive platform held up by wires, freely moving over the crowd on the floor, lights shining from above and underneath. So there he was, West himself, ascending, flying and dancing around the arena.
His set consisted of many of his most popular songs from throughout his career. Starting off with songs from his latest album “The Life of Pablo,” it wasn’t long before West performed “Famous,” a song mired in infamy. After starting the song and not getting the reaction he wanted out of the crowd, he told his sound booth to stop the music and to start again. All I could think about is a cheerleading squad yelling “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” when trying to elicit a response from the crowd. After that, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.
The set continued with songs from his collaboration with his record label, “Kanye West Presents GOOD Music: Cruel Summer,” his album with Jay-Z, “Watch The Throne,” and every one of his studio albums. It was a medley of his greatest hits combined with some of West’s best songs. I was especially surprised that West performed “Runaway,” the haunting, 7-minute-long epic from his album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” At one point James joined the floor crowd and danced around for a few songs. West had every person in the arena dancing. While it may seem counterintuitive to slow down a show with so much energy, West did exactly this. After “Runaway” West performed the extremely personal “Only One” and followed that up with a “FourFiveSeconds” a cappella with the help of the singing crowd.
West’s religious songs are what gave me the feeling that I was attending the service of a mega church. “Jesus Walks,” “Waves” and “Ultralight Beam” reminded me how far West has come, becoming one of the most influential music artists in recent history while still keeping in touch with his religion. Honestly, Christian music might not be the most popular genre, but here was thousands of people singing “God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ bring me down.” This combined with a levitating stage and heavenly lights shining down on him all contributed to a gospel feeling.
Here we all were, singing along to praise the music that West had created. The screaming masses moved, danced and bounced underneath the floating stage. For 90 minutes, it felt like West was performing with all of his soul, like he didn’t have another show to perform a day later. Without a doubt, this is was the most awesome show I have ever seen—in the real sense of the word; West inspired awe that night. We all witnessed the Gospel according to West.