As the only hip-hop act on a bill brimming with some of the biggest names in classic rock (the Who, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton), Kanye West had some heavy lifting to do for the wired generation at Wednesday night's (December 12) 12-12-12 hurricane Sandy benefit.
Taking the stage of New York's Madison Square Garden in a black hoodie and leather skirt over black leather leggings, 'Ye opened by stalking the stage to the throbbing beats of the Cruel Summer banger "Clique." Without his G.O.O.D Music crew to back him, the rapper quickly segued into "Mercy," doing his best to hype the packed house with the assistance of a trio of beatmaker/keyboardists.
With the crowd politely bobbing their heads, he kept things moving rapidly, flowing right into the more rock-friendly "Power," with its pealing King Crimson "21st Century Schizoid Man" guitar and vocal sample.
The hits kept coming thanks to an urgent "Jesus Walks," which brought Yeezy to his knees as he rapped, "I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long." That worshipful song, with its lyrics about hustlers, killers, murders, drug dealers and strippers, is what passed for an inspirational message during West's 20-minute set, which was big on energy and the most booming beats of the night.
He closed it out by trying to get the impassive crowd on its feet with a few, nearly shouted, bars of "All of the Lights," which moved into his verse from Jay-Z's "Run This Town" and a blitzkrieg featuring his lines from the remix of Rihanna's "Diamonds."
With the bouncy old school funk of "Touch the Sky," he sprinted across the stage and did a bit of crowd work, finally succeeded in getting hands in the air and sealing the deal with the sure-fire fist-pumpers "Gold Digger," "Good Life" and "Runaway."
He slammed it to a close with the party-starting, Daft Punk-sampling "Stronger," which ended with him throwing down the microphone.
The inspired set came four hours into a show that had already featured sets from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Alicia Keys, the Stones, Who, Waters, Bon Jovi and Clapton and promised more rock from the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Coldplay's Chris Martin, Billy Joel and Paul McCartney, who was reported to be fronting a band that featured former Nirvana band mates Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic.
To donate to the victims of Sandy, call 1-855-465-4357 or visit www.121212concert.org.