WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — Kanye West's sold-out show at the House of Blues Wednesday night felt more like a Hollywood premiere. At least at the outset, when a sprinkling of celebrities — like the Duff sisters, Nick Cannon and Christina Milian, ?uestlove, Fredro Starr, Chris Rock, Henry Simmons and Donald Faison — scurried in the venue with their various tag-a-long agents, publicists and homies. But of course also there were the many fans who shelled out $75 a ticket to watch the man who received the most nods this year from the Grammy crew.
John Legend, who opened and was backed by a live band, continued his move out of the shadow of his friend Kan-yeez-ee; it was all eyes on him as he performed a round of selections from his debut, Get Lifted. Occasionally Legend would stand and get his two-step on, like for "Used to Love U," but John really didn't have to exert too much energy — simply sitting at the piano and letting his voice ring throughout the H.O.B., such as when he belted out "Ordinary People," was enough to bring the standing crowd to its knees. Figuratively, of course — this is Hollywood and nobody is getting dirty. (Click here to see photos from the show.)
But the crowd wasn't too Hollywood to glorify Mr. West with resounding, ear-paining props when the rapping producer, wearing a blue skull cap and a multicolored Adidas track jacket, stepped onstage.
With Legend and the live band still in tow — along with two backup singers and DJ A-Trak — West bounced all over the stage performing "Two Words" and then "We Don't Dare." Singer Keyshia Cole hopped onstage for a quick minute to help out on the latter with her own soulful vocals.
"Y'all lucky to get in," Kanye said with a smile. "Seems like 1,000 people are outside."
With the band and DJ starting up the beat for "The New Workout Plan," the night's main attraction teased his followers by calling for the music to be stopped and started over. This time, he needed the spectators to participate and rap the opening lines. "One and two and three and four and get them sit-ups right/ And tuck your tummy tight/ And do your crunches like this," they obliged.
|Click here to see photos from the show.|
"Spaceship," the song he said he'd be shooting a video for soon, followed, and then the crowd's thundering cheers tore the roof off the venue as Talib Kweli and Common ran out for "Get Em High." On the record, the trio exhort for hands to be raised, but when Kanye, Talib and Com started up, it was bodies being elevated as a majority of the people started jumping. Upstairs, the energy flowed too, as Fabrice Morvan from Milli Vanilli bobbed on one side of the house and Doug Robb from Hoobastank rocked on the other.
Though Kanye fumbled through his words on the second verse, "Now who the hell is this/ E-mailing me at 11:46/ Telling me that she's 36-26," the audience clearly did not care. When the posse cut was over, Ye let his compadres perform solo selections. Talib did "Get By," and Common — with an assist from John Legend on the hook — went into "The Light" and his new joint, "Corners."
"I'm back mutha----as," Common told the crowd with a grin as wide as a kid who just got a PlayStation 2 for Christmas.
As Common exited, the band continued playing the beat for "Corners" and inspired Kanye to drop a freestyle: "Fashion week and Grammy week, I'm killing both of them .../ I don't get coked up, when I spit MCs get choked up."
Chi-Town's most outspoken artist also switched up the presentation of "Never Let Me Down" to give it more of a spoken-word feel. The band fell back as West stripped the track down, using just Legend's subtle piano-playing as background.
"I get down for my grandfather who took my momma/ Made her sit in that seat where white folks ain't want us to eat," he rapped with passion. "At the tender age of 6 she was arrested for the sit-in/ And with that in my blood I was born to be different."
After rapping, West once again addressed the House of Blues, saying that he wanted to introduce another good friend. John Mayer then came from behind the curtain, garnering a huge scream as well as a wave from Hilary Duff, who was upstairs with her sister, Haylie. Mayer then let his guitar flail, playing bluesy licks as "All Falls Down" began.
Mayer stayed for most of the show's remainder, and when Legend started to sing some of the Burt Bacharach-penned "A House Is Not a Home," the guitarist got right in there.
"Are you gonna be," Legend crooned while Mayer answered with more guitar licks. "Say you gonna be," Legend then sang, with Mayer continuing the volley of words and music before they segued into "Slow Jamz."
After the song, Kanye tried to play the night out in true dramatic Hollywood fashion, leaving the stage with his entourage. No one in the audience was fooled, however: The crowd knew he couldn't possibly close out the set without performing "Jesus Walks." Of course he came back to perform his triumphant anthem, ending with a little bit of the "Jesus Walks" dance.
Mayer and West have also been collaborating in the studio. The guitarist sings on a track called "Bittersweet" that will appear on West's upcoming Late Registration LP, as well as on a song called "Go," the upcoming single from Common's soon-to-be-released Be. Both records were produced by West.
As this year's Grammys approach, you can get all the latest news on the show, the scene and the nominees in our Grammy news archive. On the big night, February 8, be sure to tune in to MTV at 7 p.m. for our "All up in the Grammys" preshow. Plus check out videos of the nominees and more right here on mtv.com.