Kanye at the Revel: Dazzling, arrogant, audacious

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 01: Rapper Kanye West performs onstage during the 2012 BET Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on July 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images For BET)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 01: Rapper Kanye West performs onstage during the 2012 BET Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on July 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images For BET)
Posted: July 08, 2012

Kanye West has his moments of humility, but they never last too long.

The rapper and producer and Kim Kardashian-dater began his first of two sold-out shows at the Revel resort in Atlantic City on Friday by taking a tour above the crowd aboard a hydraulic crane.

Later, after declaring himself "a hip-hop legend / I think I died in an accident, 'cause this must be heaven," in "Touch the Sky," he paused to take a breath and address the audience at Ovation Hall, where he and three backup musician-programmers and 12 ballet dancers are scheduled to play again on Saturday night.

"I'm not perfect," he said, while Kardashian looked down from a stage-side box with an agreeably blank expression on her face. "But my music is!"

"This is the best y'all ever gonna get," he went on, stressing to the audience — which was younger, more male, and not as fancy as it was for Beyoncé in May — that they should trust the art, and not the artist. "I'm not saying that in an arrogant way. I'm saying that in a factual way. But as a human being, I'm flawed. So I thank you for bearing with the audacity. And I thank you very much for listening to this good a– music!"

With that, West got back to performing more of the same, in a show that stretched to nearly 2 ½ hours and contained dazzling moments throughout.

The show did not maintain the breathless momentum it routinely achieved in its early stages, when incandescent bangers like "Power," "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and the gospel rap march "Jesus Walks" were mixed in with furious new cuts like "Mercy" and "New God Flow."

In the latter West humbly rhymes that he "went from most hated to champion god flow / I guess that's a feeling only me and LeBron know."Along with "Mercy" it's set to be released on Cruel Summer, the compilation album featuring artists from his GOOD music label due in August.

West never does anything that's not more than a little portentous, so naturally that first section of the show was labeled "Act I," and began with the dancers running around like wood sprites from A Midsummer Night's Dream in front of a bas-relief backdrop showing mythological figures, while a classical fanfare blended with face-melting bass.

Nothing wrong with that if you can deliver the highly ambitious goods as convincingly as West routinely does. And for most of the show, he did just that, whether meshing Euro-techno sounds with his neurotic, über-rapper persona on "Stronger," or throwing down an offhand disquisition on the rippling effects of racism, as he did in "All Falls Down," one of those reminders that, along with everything else, he's an analytical thinker when he has a mind to be.

As producer and front man, West is both the man in front of and behind the curtain. His intro to "All of The Lights," was fascinating, as he explained how the song's elements came together in the studio.

He's also a grandiose conceptualist who can stubbornly stick to ideas after they became ponderous. There was one song too many from 2008's Auto-Tuned breakup album 808s and Heartbreak. And "Runaway," the mea culpa song from 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, began with a parachute-flapping choreographed segment set to Vangelis' Chariots of Fire theme.

That beautiful yet boring tableaux sapped energy out of an evening which would have benefited from judicious editing. But you'd be foolish to expect that from an artist as drunk with power and blessed with talent as Kanye West.

Contact Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or deluca@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @delucadan. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at www.philly.com/inthemix.

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