MIAMI — The man who became famous with a record called "Through the Wire" literally took it to the wire over the past two days in Miami. Kanye West's Touch the Sky Tour kicked off at the University of Miami's Convocation Center Tuesday night, and you can bet that he sprouted a few extra gray hairs while preparing for this outing.
Two weeks ago, Ye scrapped his original set because he was upset with the lighting. After that, he received the news that his good friend Common would not be coming out on the road as one of the three opening acts as planned (see "Common Drops Off Kanye's Touch The Sky Tour Just Hours Before Kickoff"). Kanye didn't have much rehearsal time, what with all the public appearances that come along with being Kanye. And the entire night before heading to the MIA, he was shooting a music video in New York with Maroon 5's Adam Levine for the track "Heard 'Em Say." So you can imagine what the admitted perfectionist was going through after he arrived in Florida last Wednesday.
Normally an artist is resigned to the fact that the first show of a tour will be rough, to say the least. But Kanye doesn't subscribe to that notion.
"F--- that!" West said backstage shortly before showtime. "We not gonna wait for 10 shows from now, we gonna touch the sky tonight."
By 8:50 p.m. the venue had filled up and it was clear many in the crowd were fun-loving college kids. One guy was affectionately hoisting a girl over his head much like former wrestling champion the Ultimate Warrior used to do to his opponents before he dropped them on their faces and finished them off. There were four young guys in the stands pointing down to one girl and telling her to come up and talk to them, one man screaming for Heavy D and the Boyz to take the stage for no rhyme or reason, and the requisite drunken woman literally falling over her seat. She managed to pull it together when Ye came on, though, dancing with three of her girls.
West finally appeared center stage for opening number "Touch the Sky." Wearing a light-colored shirt and pants, a suit jacket and sunglasses with white frames, Kanye looked like he'd stepped directly out of a photo shoot. Much like he proclaims in the song, he was looking like he belonged on GQ magazine's best-dressed list.
"We gonna touch the sky, come up in the spot lookin' extra fly," he rapped while popping the collar on his jacket. "Till the day I die, we gonna touch the sky."
As the song came to an end, the crowd joined in, obeying Kanye's command to yell, "I, I'm sky high. I, I'm sky high, sky high!"
Although "Late," "Drive Slow" and "Spaceship" in succession made the pace of the show seem a little sluggish (Kanye brought out his G.O.O.D. Music MCs GLC and Consequence for this section of the set), hardly anyone in the crowd would sit down. And then a few minutes later, the energy in the venue exploded: Common came out for "Get Em High." Not only was the crowd surprised by the appearance, so was Kanye.
"I couldn't miss Miami," Common said. "I gotta see if Miami is ready to go."
They segued into Com's hit "Go!" and you could literally feel the house vibrate as the Convocation Center chanted "Go, go!" like they were cheering a Hurricanes running back dashing toward the end zone.
Common did officially pull out of the tour, of course. But he will be popping up at some other shows during the trek's two-month run when his schedule allows. "This is beautiful," Com said backstage as West was killing the audience onstage with his familiar faves "All Falls Down" and "Through the Wire." "Me and Kanye's mothers are in the crowd. My stepfather is in the crowd throwing up the diamond. It's a beautiful moment in history."
Kanye may have made history as the first rapper to have a concert without any major audio problems. Everyone cheered during "Gold Digger" as Kanye threw his shoulders back feverishly (think leaning back times 15), but who could not get caught up with the music sounding so crisp? Watching West perform songs from The College Dropout and his latest album, Late Registration, it became evident that these records were constructed with a major performance in mind. The drums in "Gold Digger" and "Jesus Walks" felt like someone was dropkicking you in your chest. The horns on "We Major" drowned the arena in glorious noise as Kanye and his new artist Really Doe (see "Music Geek: Kanye's Kast Of Thousands") rapped about being on top of the world.
By the time the Touch the Sky tour runs its course, the break-out star is bound to be Kanye's cousin Tony Williams, who is one of the backup singers and crooned on several songs on The College Dropout and Late Registration. Williams more than made up for the void left by John Legend, who was Kanye's go-to vocalist before Legend's own career took off.
The ladies are representing on the Touch the Sky Tour as well. Opener Keyshia Cole is reminiscent of a very young Mary J. Blige, as you could feel the torment in her powerful voice as she sang about striking out in love on "I Changed My Mind" and "I Should Have Cheated." And if anyone thought Fantasia's "American Idol" win was a fluke, they need to come and see her rock the mic. Even if you're not familiar with her "Idol" victory or her platinum debut LP, you will have to give it up to her. She's no Ruben Studdard R&B crooner, positioned in one place; she's a jitterbug, a ball of energy. Her mic was a little too low, but Fantasia sings like she's possessed.
Kanye West tour dates, according to his label:
- 10/12 - Tampa, FL @ USF Sundome
- 10/13 - Gainesville, FL @ University of Florida O'Connell Center
- 10/15 - Greenville, SC @ Bi-Lo Center
- 10/16 - Knoxville, TN @ Thompson-Boling Arena
- 10/18 - Columbia, MO @ Mizzou Arena
- 10/19 - Champaign, IL @ Assembly Hall
- 10/21 - Buffalo, NY @ Alumni Arena
- 10/22 - Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre
- 10/23 - Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre
- 10/23 - Columbus, OH @ Schottenstein Center
- 10/26 - Kingston, RI @ University of Rhode Island Ryan Center
- 10/28 - University Park, PA @ Penn State Bryce Jordan Center
- 10/29 - Cleveland, OH @ CSU Convocation Center
- 10/30 - Fairfax, VA @ Patriot Center
- 10/31 - Amherst, MA @ Mullins Center
- 11/2 - New York, NY @ Theatre at Madison Square Garden
- 11/3 - New York, NY @ Theatre at Madison Square Garden
- 11/4 - Baltimore, MD @ 1st Mariner Arena
- 11/5 - Hampton, VA @ Hampton Coliseum
- 11/6 - Philadelphia, PA @ Liacouras Center
- 11/8 - Pittsburgh, PA @ AJ Palumbo Center
- 11/9 - Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
- 11/11 - East Lansing, MI @ Michigan State University Breslin Center
- 11/12 - Chicago, IL @ Rosemont Theater
- 11/13 - Dekalb, IL @ NIU Convocation Center
- 11/13 - Minneapolis, MN @ Excel Center
- 11/14 - Evanston, IL @ Northwestern University (Welsh Ryan Arena)
- 11/15 - Carbondale, IL @ SIU Arena
- 11/17 - Atlanta, GA @ Gwinnett Center
- 11/18 - Greensboro, NC @ Coliseum
- 11/19 - Statesboro, GA @ Georgia Southern University
- 11/20 - Birmingham, AL @ Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center
- 11/22 - Oklahoma City, OK @ Ford Center
- 11/23 - Memphis, TN @ Mid-South Coliseum
- 11/25 - Houston, TX @ Reliant Arena
- 11/26 - Dallas, TX @ Nokia Live
- 11/27 - Kansas City, MO @ Kemper Arena
- 11/29 - Denver, CO @ Magness Arena or Colorado Convention Center Lecture Hall
- 12/1 - Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre
- 12/2 - San Diego, CA @ Cox Arena or UCSD RIMAC Arena
- 12/3 - Universal City, CA @ Gibson Amphitheatre
- 12/4 - Universal City, CA @ Gibson Amphitheatre
- 12/6 - San Francisco, CA @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
- 12/7 - Las Vegas, NV @ Mandalay Bay or Aladdin
- 12/9 - Portland, OR @ Memorial Coliseum
- 12/10 - Seattle, WA @ Everett Event Center
- 12/11 - Vancouver, BC @ GM Place
For an in-depth feature on Kanye, check out "All Eyes On Kanye West."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.