Concert Review: Kanye West – The Saint Pablo Tour in Toronto

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Well this was a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t planning on attending this show, but encountered some tickets at the last minute. Kanye West is of course a high demand artist, as this would be the last of two consecutive nights in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for his Saint Pablo Tour. The last time he was here was in 2013 for two shows on his Yeezus Tour, not counting the ten minutes he did at the 2015 Pan Am Games closing ceremonies.

Since his last time here, Kanye released his seventh solo album, The Life of Pablo, which is the first album ever to top the charts while only being available on streaming services. It is my personal least favourite album of his, although I’m not a Tidal subscriber and haven’t experienced the whole concept of a living, breathing album that continues to change over time. This hasn’t really affected Kanye’s ability to sell out concerts though, as maybe even moreso than his music these days, he’s known for his unique, innovative stage designs for his live shows.

While the Yeezus Tour had an intricate set including a mountain and choreographed dancers and pyrotechnics, the Saint Pablo Tour has nothing but Kanye by himself – except the stage hangs from the rafters and moves above the crowd as he performs! It seems symbolic of the religious themes in Kanye’s music, as the crowd on the floor moshes and parties on their own without necessarily being able to see the artist (“God”) they worship. The experience of viewing the show in the stands was almost like watching a living, moving painting.

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With no opening acts and no special guests, Kanye got the show started with some Pablo tracks, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2,” the stage moving from one end of the arena to the other as he rapped/sang. He stuck mostly to new songs from Pablo, as well as his featured verses on Drake and Schoolboy Q’s new albums. Say what you will about the cringe-worthy lyrics on “Famous,” but that beat gets crowds jumping!

The entire first half of the show was all songs from this current decade, off of albums like Cruel Summer, Yeezus, and he even let the crowd rap Jay-Z’s verse for him on the Watch The Throne hit “Niggas In Paris.”  The platform Kanye floated on lit up like a spaceship at times, and you could tell there was a lot of work put into all of the lighting effects above him.  The lighting would hit the crowd as well as Kanye in so many different variations depending on the mood of the music.  After performing his 2010 hit “Power,” the stage moved back to the far end where Kanye first boarded it, and there was a break where the light show was the main focus for a few minutes.

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When the lights went dark, Kanye returned to the stage with “Blood On The Leaves,” a perfect way to take the mellow vibe of the light show and build the energy back up again.  Keeping the energy high and the crowd jumping with Pablo‘s “Freestyle 4,” Kanye finally started digging back to his older catalogue.  He performed “Jesus Walks,” then mellowed out the crowd again with “Amazing” and “Flashing Lights.”  This then transitioned into another Pablo segment, with “Flashing Lights” turning into “Highlights,” followed by “Feedback” and “Wolves.”  The sad, defensive mood of the latter track transitioned seamlessly into the 808’s & Heartbreak single “Heartless,” which turned into “Runaway.”

While the mood became more positive, the mellow vibe remained with songs like “Only One” and “30 Hours” before turning hype again with “Waves.”  Kanye then moved back to his older classics with “Gold Digger,” “Touch The Sky,” “Good Life” and “Stronger.”  He performed “All of the Lights” with the light above him hitting the crowd in a radiant, pulsing movement.  The stage would tilt at different angles so Kanye could lean over and actually encourage the fans below him to jump and try to clap his hand.

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Kanye brought things full circle, with the stage returning to its original position and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” playing a second time.  He then ended the show with a performance of “Ultralight Beam,” the lights dimming with the exception of one spotlight, and the crowd singing along with him as if we were in church.  With the lights in the side of the stage shooting beams into the stands, it travelled across the arena one last time as we sang the song, dropping Kanye off on the floor level at the opposite end.

When Toronto saw Kanye West perform here right before Christmas of 2013, he did a twenty-minute autotuned, spoken word “rant” in the middle of his show about how he’s going to focus more on positivity going forward (among other things).  This show was exactly that, just a positive, fun-filled party from start to finish.  There was no talking, no “rants,” just continuous jams as Kanye rapped through his extensive catalogue, vibing with the crowd for hit after hit.  Regardless of how much or how little he spent with your favourite album of his, the atmosphere he created with the design of this show made this one of the most fun concerts of the summer.

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No videos from this show will be posted to my YouTube channel, because I know Kanye’s legal team will have me take it down 😉

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