Boo Hiss! here he comes! the man they love to hate.
The self styled ‘greatest living rock star on the planet’ as he terms himself when he finally leaves the stage with this merry quip is not the kind of person to turn on a charm offensive.
Perhaps a better producer with his stunning soundscapes on his albums than performer Kanye West, after a bizarre set that staggered between moments of pop brilliance and acres of sludgy ballads with occasional gaps and glitches that left the lovers and the haters with plenty of ammunition for the entrenched arguments the jury is still out arguing away on the internet.
Being a very rich man who people treat like a god doesn’t stop fellow Glastonbury performer the Dali Lama being feted but he might be nicer to people than the world’s number one rapper.
The man in the middle of the debate entered the stage on his own with no fancy stage show and armed with a mic took the battle to the frontline in a show that was either armed with balls of steel or armour plated with his famous huge ego. Kanye West has no such human twitches and foibles like doubt embedded into his gold plated psyche and brimmed the kind of self belief that doesn’t sit easy in the UK.
Kanye West had arrived on stage at the world’s biggest festival to a shit storm of controversy and ferocious online debate about whether he should be there at all. Frankly this all seemed totally bizarre – no-one buys a ticket for the headline act to this festival- they are announced after its sold out and at an event with 30 plus stages and most people more excited about partying all night at the Shangri La field there is endless options and choices to escape from a headliner you don’t like.
It’s becoming an annual ritual now- this idea that ‘our Glastonbury’ should be booking sturdy indie chaps with their guitars held aloft. Jay Z and Metallica both took flack in recent years and both went down a storm when they finally got on the stage.
People say that Glastonbury is not what it was.
This is true.
It was once a pretty small festival with no pressure of being a national treasure on its shoulders. The current broad booking policy that has been accelerated by the woderful Emily Eavis is one of the great things about the festival now – surely Elvis Costello couldn’t have ben expected to headline for ever to 20 000 people.
From Burt Bacharach to Lemmy to Slaves to Fat White Family to the naughty Kanye and his whale sized onstage and offstage monster ego this is the festival where you get to see stuff you would normally not have time to catch. There is even still great swathes of the former counter culture lurking around if you want it and it is somehow fitting to have this and the Kanye West soap opera all in the same damp fields of Merrie England at the same time.
This Kanye moment has turned into the most controversial pop music brawl since the Sex Pistols popped on the Bill Grundy show all those centuries ago. Middle England is gnashing its teeth at the rapper playing Glastonbury with a long list of reasons why he should not be gracing the holy stage and staining the name of ‘proper music’ whatever that is.
West himself is either so lost in his helicopter world that he has either not noticed all this or is revelling in the hatred.
He doesn’t make things easy for himself, whilst highly talented he is hardly loveable but that has hardly ever been a prerequisite for liking someone’s music. Nice people generally make dull music and some of the greatest music has been made by all manner of rude and bloated characters who believe that they are god and are not that pleasant to be around – like John Lennon or quite possibly Mozart.
Whilst not quite as mobbed as the Rolling Stones iconic appearence on the same stage two years ago there is still a huge crowd here in the field as the rapper, who put the word ego into ego, takes the stage on his own and delivers a set that is part patchy and part pop genius with the seat of the pants edge of someone staring into the eye of the hurriciane.
On the twitter-sphere the battle raged on it but in the hazy warmth of the evening he is well supported with many fans willing him on and the reactions to his moments of magic really working.
Those flashes of brilliance are thrilling moments of pop perfection with the multilayered ideas and sounds that grab the audience back from the brink like on No Church in the Wild or Jesus Walks which really deliver as does the neo tribal glam rock stomp of the superb Black Skinhead from the Yeezus album where a stage invader doesn’t even put him of his stride. His voice is great, spitting out the tumbling word flow with a rhythmic sneering brilliance. Or the stark No Church In the Wild with its addictive and brilliantly addictive dark lolloping groove- the stuff of genius or the fantastic soundscape of Jesus Walks that is a brilliant piece of visionary music.
There is a nod to stadium flash with a bizarre segment where he clambers into a cherry picker to deliver Touch the Sky and All the Lights followed by a long gap where the stage lights are out and it feels like there has been some kind of power failure.
Maybe when you think you are the greatest stuff like showmanship, crowd acknowledgement and all that showbiz stuff seem quaint and boring and even his big hits like Gold Digger can feel tossed away and other parts of the set see weird half finished tossed out versions of Bohemian Rhapsody – genius, madness or helium pumped ego – it’s all hard to tell.
I guess it’s a welcome to my world kind of show. A world where there is no such thing as doubt and gigantic plate tectonic egos and famous being famous nobody partners like a Kardashian wallpaper the cracks.
One one level it is totally laughable but it is made up for when he finally kicks in with those nuggets of pop perfection that are perfect enscapulations of the sophistication and brilliance of modern pop music in the digital age.