“This is the most important show to me since my mom passed,” Kanye West revealed, as a hush fell over the capacity crowd on closing night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
In the middle of a powerful hits-filled set that also featured cuts off his current album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” the 33-year-old hip-hop superstar suddenly had a confessional moment.
“When I made the album, I was in a really dark place in my life…losing everything that was dear to me,” he told the audience from centre stage. “To still love me after everything you’ve seen me say on TV…to still have fans…I really appreciate you all tonight, because I’m only trying to say and do what’s right.”
“I’m not the best singer in the world,” West continued, before talking about how it was the most authentic way for him to convey his feelings. “So many times I thought about not being here, but you make it all worth it.”
If there’s one thing Kanye West knows how to do, it’s put on a dramatic show. In fact, he started the programme by riding a giant mechanical arm high above the crowd. It deposited him on stage, where he was joined by a couple dozen dancers, who helped him illustrate his fall from grace and subsequent “re-birth.”
Although artists he’s collaborated with – like Rihanna and Katy Perry – had been spotted at Coachella over the weekend, West chose to go the solo route, tearing through his ample arsenal of hits from every phase of his career. He performed 27 songs, including “Jesus Walks,” “Love Lockdown,” “Heartless,” “Gold Digger,” “Stronger,” and his recent tongue-in-cheek single, “Runaway” (which had the audience singing along to the lyrics, “Let’s have a toast for the scumbags”).
There were lots of fireworks, and the multitude of ballerinas and avant-garde dancers made the set feel like a piece of performance art at times – purposely discordant and unsettling. But the most poignant moments were when West was on the stage by himself, baring his soul to the full moon, the desert stars and 75,000 or so festival-goers.
His face was wet with tears when he finished his last song, “Hey Mama.” Donda West died tragically in 2007 due to complications from cosmetic surgery. She was 58 – a former college professor who was also instrumental in guiding her son’s career.
“This show is dedicated to you, Mama,” were the last words out of West’s mouth before he left the stage.
There was no encore.