If Kanye West reads everything the press writes about him, and he's provided ample evidence that he does, the rapper should be pleased with the reviews so far of his Saint Pablo Tour. That's a qualified "should," as this is, after all, Kanye West we're talking about. In February, when West felt slighted by a review of his just-released album "The Life of Pablo," he tweeted, "Pitchfork, the album is a 30 out of 10." Pitchfork, where nits go to get picked, gave the album a 9 out of 10.
Since the Saint Pablo Tour opened Aug. 25 in Indianapolis — it will appear Sept. 16-17 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami — critics from The New York Times, RollingStone.com and The Washington Post, among other high-profile websites and publications, have had generally positive things to say about West's show and his performance. The concert's stage set, which includes a suspended, rotating, glowing platform that places West 15 feet above his audience, has elicited the most praise, with reviewers scrambling to come up with their best (read: nerdiest) sci-fi references.
Of course, West has been interrupting these shows to deliver rambling, self-aggrandizing rants that by now are as much a fixture at his concerts as renditions of "Born To Run" are at Bruce Springsteen's. If nothing else, they're fun to quote.
As for West's performance of his music, the reviews, when they bother to mention it at all, have been fair. "When West is good, he's very, very good," TheGuardian.com's Mike Doherty wrote in his review of the tour's Aug. 30 stop in Toronto, where, as elsewhere, the set list drew from every phase of West's career, beginning with his 2004 debut album, "The College Dropout."
Following are excerpts from the most prominent reviews of the Saint Pablo Tour.
"Instead of prowling an earthbound stage, West hovered above the general-admission crowd on a mobile platform that looked as if it had been plucked out of a Donkey Kong cartridge and plunged into a Ridley Scott movie."
— Chris Richards, The Washington Post; Sept. 8 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
"The stage was part 'Blade Runner' flying car (with Ridley Scott's hazy, black-and-sodium-orange color scheme echoed throughout the whole show), part 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' musical spaceship (complete with blinding lights and fat bass synth sounds that might have shattered glass) and part Robert Wilson theatre pop."
— Mike Doherty, TheGuardian.com; Aug. 30 at Air Canada in Toronto
"When fully lit up in a soft orange hue, and with a dense cloud of fog swirling all around, the interior of [Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis] was transformed into something like the alien spacecraft from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' "
— Corbin Rieff, RollingStone.com; Aug. 25 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
"The platforms floated out above the crowd slowly, like an Imperial Star Destroyer soaring through space in 'Star Wars.' "
— Jon Caramanica, The New York Times; Aug. 25 in Indianapolis
" 'I have to be selfish for a second,' he announced after abruptly interrupting 'Power,' just as the room was about to go nuclear. 'I have to say that today, I needed to hear these songs. ... I needed to hear me today!' He went on to explain that the launch of his new fashion line in New York the previous afternoon hadn't been received as warmly as he had hoped — the latest instance in a career spent turning obstacles into fuel. Apparently, talking it out would be more cathartic than blasting through one of the most electrifying hits of our young century."
— Richards, The Washington Post
" 'At the beginning of this performance, I tried my best to not try. No, I tried to listen to all the reports and s---, and I tried my best to stop trying,' he said at the end of the performance. 'But I just couldn't do it! I couldn't stop! No matter what they write, I just couldn't stop!' "
— Mesfin Fekadu, AP; Sept. 9 at the Plaza Hotel in New York
" 'The subject of West's ire Thursday night was, at this point, a familiar one: the fashion world, which largely panned the unveiling of his Yeezy Season 4 clothing line the day before. West, whose early forays into high fashion were mocked by fashion gatekeepers but has since become a dominant force in luxury streetwear, felt doubted again.
" 'I'm feeling like the Cavs right now, when Kyrie [Irving] got hurt,' West said. 'I'm talking about the fashion show yesterday. When you the LeBron [James], when you don't bring home that ring, it's your fault. You could score 70 … ' he said before trailing off."
— Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun; Sept. 8 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
"Almost all the new songs on the Saint Pablo tour work better than they did on record. Part of this has to do with the floating stage ... He's a king who can't leave his palace, exalted and trapped at the same time, an elegant illustration of one of 'The Life of Pablo's central themes."
— Simon Vozick-Levinson, MTV.com; Sept. 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York
"The most indelible gut punch came during the noisy thud of 'Feedback' when West rapped, 'Hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us/Hands up, hands up, then the cops shot us.' Those last five syllables seemed to go sour in his mouth."
— Richards, The Washington Post
"He still has trouble remembering his own lyrics at times, and when he and his band — including Mike Dean, Tony Williams and Caroline Shaw — were slightly off timing-wise, it broke West's concentration.
" 'Do the drums like the night before,' he said when 'Pablo' song 'Highlights' faltered. 'Everybody's gotta do their job tonight."
— Case, The Baltimore Sun
Kanye West will perform Sept. 16-17 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Tickets cost $25.50-$457.20. Call 800-745-3000 or go to AAArena.com.