Friday – and the entire Austin City Limits Music Festival, really –belonged to a single, monstrous act. It wasn’t one of the hordes of rising indie buzzbands or aging, slowing rockstars out to pad their bank accounts, rather it was a single man who, already outpacing the rest of the pack, hit a dead sprint and ran away with the entirety of the fest.
I’m talking about Kanye West, whose ornately decorated,
epic-scale prog rap closed Friday out in a fashion, one that’s sure to dwarf
even the massive catharsis of shouting indie-rock performers Arcade Fire’s
Sunday night festival-capper. And without Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, Rihanna or any of
his other regular collaborators, Kanye had the “Throne” all to himself, from
which he spat, sermonized, squelched and sweat for nearly two hours.
Divided into three acts and driven by his impressive ego, ‘Ye’s show transcended every other ACL performance’s mere standard of quality entertainment into the realm of performance art. From the 25 or so ballerinas whose choreography pantomimed the raper’s lust, excitement, grief and desire to the stage blocking and pace of the songs selected, and the enormous Greek statue setpiece that backed it all, the show was an impressive spectacle, the likes of which pop music has never seen.
Shortly after the stage dimmed, the musicians assumed their positions on stage,
and the lights flashed a gigantic sign reading “ACT 1,” a platform near the
soundbooth suddenly raised up, hoisting the world’s biggest serious pop star up
nearly 100 feet above the crowd. From there he pounded his way through “My
Fantasy,” which was immediately followed by “Power.” From there on, it seemed
like every one of his earlier songs was somehow adjusted to suit the grand
ambition and scuzzy prog rap of his last three albums. A few quick hits:
-“Flashing Lights” sported a sample of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” that kept things playful, and comported with his obsession with the deceased pop star that’s really emerged as a massive factor in his songwriting of late.
-“Love Lockdown” and “Heartless” emerged to begin Act 2, which signaled the rapper’s remaining dedication to the odd, Auto-Tune heavy departure “808’s and Heartbreak,” which, in hindsight, feels validified by “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
-If there’s a single criticism of the show, it’s the ‘Ye’s indulgent sermonizing went on a bit too long. The additional choruses and messages that interrupted “Heartless” and completely derailed “Runaway,” however personal and meaningful to the guy, seemed indulgent and aimless.
And to imagine people actually went to see Coldplay during all this. Poor fools.
Of course, there were other bands who played Friday. Here are the ones I saw.
Brooklyn hipster and Kanye wannabe Theophilus London got the noontime crowd pumped early at the Bud Light stage with songs like “Girl Girls $” and “Going Overseas.” He showed a pretty impressive ability to get audience’s hooked into whatever he’s doing.
Hailing from storied music scene in Athens, Georgia, synthy, melodic goofballs Reptar played tracks from their recently-released EP, “Oblang Fizz, Y’all” at the Austin Ventures Stage. One of the guys in their band rocked a unitard. Expect an interview with bandmember Ryan Engelberger soon.
James Blake commanded rapt attention from the audience at his 3 p.m. show with songs like “The Wilhelm Scream” and “CMYK,” the former of which suffered from a funny lack of skitter and bass in the first part of the song. Blake and drummer Ben Assiter shared a laugh before continuing on with the rest of the performance. They finished with the Feist cover, “Limit to Your Love,” which had people singing and swaying along. Not bad for a 21-year-old London bloke in the Midwest.
I skipped away to the press tent for interviews and unfortunately missed Foster the People, Big Boi and others, though I did make it back in time to catch Nas and Damian Marley take turns lighting up the Bud Light stage with a full backing band. The New York rapper didn’t bring anything from his 1990 classic “Illmatic,” unfortunately. That would’ve made my festival.
I apologize for the delay in posting, Wifi in Austin has proven a precious and very rare resource. Tune in soon for a Day 2 recap and photos of The Antlers, Iron & Wine, Twin Shadow, and more!
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”
“Hell of a Life”
“The Good Life”
“Run This Town”
“Through the Wire”
“All Falls Down”
“Touch the Sky”
“All of the Lights”
“Lost in the World”
“Hey Mama” (snippet)