It was nothing short of a spiritual gathering, with the rap superstar as a god and his music as religion.
“And I want to show you how you all look like beautiful stars tonight.”
It was surreal coming from Mr. Kanye Omari West.
He sang the line from “Runaway” twice with an elusive smile that seemed to look like a sign of satisfaction, addressing the huge crowd who has proven so far as his performance went, that here in Manila lies a worthy audience.
Before he started pounding on his synthesizer, Kanye headlined the Paradise International Music Festival in Aseana grounds with “Stronger,” drawing cries and screams as he popped up from behind three hundred sixty lights, before an audience that consisted mostly of young Filipino fanatics who had not even fathom, not even in their wildest dreams, the possibility that a top-tier artist like Kanye would perform in Manila.
Even harder to believe was that he would be performing for a solid 90 minutes after Wiz Khalifa. Kanye’s set had been stretched to almost two hours worth of hits, from his debut studio album “The College Dropout” to his 2016 release, “The Life of Pablo.”
On that glorious night, Ye brought the house down and built it back up with 32 songs, live debuts included.
Kanye, known to be spontaneous and notorious for ranting on stage when things don’t go as planned, was also capable of being a class act with no need for intermissions.
That class act happened—on an epic scale.
He warmed up with classic hits like “Power,” “Black Skinhead,” “All Day” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.”
The crowd—many carrying a drink in one hand and a smartphone in the other—sang along with Kanye like mascots, some of them even sporting Pablo shirts they had bought hours before his set.
Pumping up the energy, Kanye performed his new songs from “Pablo” for the first time, including “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” “Famous” and “Waves.”
“Man I can understand how it might be kinda hard to love a girl like me. I don’t blame you much for wanting to be free. I just wanted you to know.”
Kanye performed “Famous” thrice, the third one after an outburst of emotions spilled through his mic, sharing how overwhelmed he is for the audience’s reaction on the “song that broke the writer’s block” for him. It was a rare moment of intimacy.
By the looks of it, he can perform any song twice or thrice, and the sea of people would be ready to swallow it.
He then went old-school with songs from his posse-album Cruel Summer, including “Clique,” “Don’t Like,” and “Mercy.”
The smorgasbord of songs went on and on, but no one complained. Like his own personal army, the crowd would raise hands whenever he ordered it; they would jump, they would scream, they would do just anything.
He continued to lead the crowd with “Blood on the Leaves,” “New Slaves,” and “Ni**as in Paris,” before the lights finally dimmed to show only a silhouette of one of the most important artists of this time.
As each faint sound of his piano keys was heard, true followers of Kanye went berserk. This is “Runaway,” this was Kanye spitting words of wisdom, his guts and glory intact on the platform.
“Let’s have a toast for the douchebags! Let’s have a toast for the assholes!”
Kanye went on: “Look at ya! If I gotta be like what everybody else be like, then I don’t wanna be liked! God is love, so I would rather follow God than follow the media. I would rather follow God than follow perception.”
But it was too early to flip the moment into a mellow ending. Kanye was generous to the Paradise crowd and sang a few more songs that seemed not on his original set list: “All Falls Down,” “Gold Digger,” “Touch the Sky.” He was extra fly.
If that was not enough, he followed through via “Run This Town” and another song with a Rihanna collab “FourFiveSeconds.”
The supremely confident alpha male that he is, Kanye was comfortable showing his vulnerability with his last number, “Only One,” a tribute to his daughter North from the perspective of his late mother, Donda West.
It was nothing short from being a religious gathering, with Ye as God and his music as religion. As the lights descend from above and the speakers went mute, there was one final chant: “Yeezus! Yeezus!”
The aftermath was disastrous for Afrojack, who was supposed to follow Kanye’s act. Half of the crowd went home so as not to blurry even the foggiest moments of Yeezus in Paradise.