CHICAGO — Chicago fans are some of the most loyal around — not only to their sports teams, but to their musicians as well. Kanye West was greeted on Tuesday night with a warm, Windy City homecoming as more than 300 people, including media types, local artists and friends who supported him on his ride up, gathered at the ICON Theater in Chicago's South Loop for an advance look at his movie, "Runaway," which premieres on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV and BET.
The 35-minute film includes nine unreleased songs that drive the story of a phoenix (Selita Ebanks), that mythical bird with a penchant for fire, who falls from the sky. West rescues her, but soon learns that he can't change her destiny.
Before the film began, West humbly addressed the crowd, giving fans a chance to see a softer side of him.
"For him to come home to Chicago and do this, this is a great way for redemption," said Sean Knight, who was in the audience.
"It gave me a different perspective on Kanye's music and personality," Bretagne Lenox added. "He has changed."
West spoke of his conviction and passion and an artist's duty to elevate culture in a way that makes things better for future generations. "Let's not let the culture down and do some awesome sh--," he urged the audience. "We need to appreciate life, look at art and take time. ... Do something because you feel so convicted."
He also said this duty was the driving force behind the movie's use of culturally significant imagery. There are ballet dancers donning traditional tutus, a lamb and deer hanging out in the backyard, and the movie's most profound symbol, the phoenix. The bird may represent West's genius and the way he is compelled by something so strong he has no choice but to move forward, or maybe it is just a simple symbol of reinvention.
But whatever the interpretation, Chicago fans agreed that West's goal of colliding culturally inspired visuals with pop music is a step in the right direction.
"It was breathtaking," said Kevin Schwarz after the screening. "The music and the imagery, there are no words. And when he talked about his perspective on parents and doing things for the future, one day I will be a father and I want to pass it on too."
Chicago was the fourth stop of his preview tour, which will continue in New York on Thursday.
Kanye West's "Runaway" will premiere on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, MTV2 and BET, and will also stream live on MTV.com, BET.com and VH1.com, followed by a live Q&A session on MTV.