Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Great Divorce and Kanye West

Last night Kerra and I were embarking upon a date when our friends Matt and Allison Spurlock called us with tickets to see Kanye West at the Frank Irwin Center. Presented with box seats, free food, and our first rap concert it was a no brainer: we were there. The concert was actually a lot of fun. We missed Lupe Fiasco, which bummed me out cause he's my favorite rapper, but N.E.R.D. and Rihanna were excellent. During the N.E.R.D. show I swear the energy was bananas. (bananas seems appropriate) And Rihanna can actually sing; no tracks, her voice, excellent. Lights. Dancers. Extremely complicated beats. And some really impressive performers.

So by the time Kanye came out we were highly impressed and excited to see what he would deliver. They started setting up his set and the thing was a monster. They built this landscape that looked like the moon and it was probably a little bit bigger than half-court in basketball. Behind the stage was this probably 100 by 40 foot high definition screen with a 20 by 20 screen built into the floor.

He came out and proceeded to invite us into a story about a man named Kanye West whose spaceship crashed on a desert planet and his only line of communication was with his spaceship Jane. It was somewhere between Castaway and Star Trek. I've got to hand it to him, Kanye is creative, cheesy but creative to put on a musical theatre using his own songs. I'm impressed.

What quickly dawned on me was that Kanye was the only person on stage, rapping his heart out. To be honest, it was highly entertaining for the most part. But nobody else ever came out on stage. Nobody. And I began to feel like Kanye wasn't even trying to connect with his fans. Now I'm probably wrong, but as Allison later added, "I've never seen such egocentrism in my life." Everything about it felt disconnected from the crowd. The way that his stage placed him at least fifty if not closer to a hundred feet away from his closest fans. The way he never really interacted, but rather acted throughout the show. The way he interacted with a mannequin alien and scantily clad projection, but never a human being. It was as if nobody else was there. In a room filled with thousands of people singing along, Kanye West was all alone. In acting out this isolated scenario on stage, he had effectively isolated himself from the crowd with a two hour long monologue.
It had to be either genius or complete egotism.

So being the N.E.R.D. that I am, I just couldn't help but think about C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce. In the first part, Lewis depicts hell as this place where you can get anything you want but your never satisfied. A place where everything is a vapor. A place where egotism, self-promotion and selfishness leave people completely disconnected and alone. I feel like I sort of experienced that last night.

Toward the end, Kanye is still trying to get home and the only thing that can get him there is star power. Now the mannequin aliens tried to help but they couldn't. Their stars weren't bright enough. But Kanye's computer spaceship had an idea. The only thing that could get them home was the brightest star in the universe, and guess what that brightest star in the universe was? Jesus. Nope. He just walks. The brightest star in the universe was the one and only Kanye West. As the lighted stage lifted Kanye higher and higher, the brightest star in universe, I couldn't help but think, "You're the self-proclaimed brightest star in the universe, but really your just isolated and alone on top of that stage." As odd as it sounds, I felt sorrow for Kanye. Not bitterness or hate, just sorrow, that a man with such expansive influence would effectively isolate himself from his audience. On top of the world. An absolute genius. But disconnected, and alone.