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Jay-Z joins Kanye West in â€˜Dark, Twistedâ€™ fan-friendly SXSW finale concert
John Legend, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, marching band, emo on hand for un-Austin, late-night set
There’s no word yet when Kanye West and Jay-Z collaboration set “Watch the Throne” will finally drop for sure, but live, things are definitely underway.
Hov met Ye around 2:30 a.m., the beginning of the end of the South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin. The get-together poised West and his G.O.O.D. label cohorts in a unique position, literally: West’s concert was hosted at an abandoned power plant on the edge of downtown, a private party apparently out of the bounds of the Texas capitol’s typical Saturday required closing hour.
The high, metal, rib-like rafters and white-washed stairwells were host to reverberations and modern Go-Go dancers, respectively, the G.O.O.D. festivities started well after midnight, then blasting ‘til 4,
West’s repertoire almost exclusively stuck to “My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy,” his self-reflective 2010 opus, and from opener “Dark Fantasy” to “So Apalled” each opening strain forced a couple thousand revelers to yowl. (The wee hour and the week’s general strain could’ve been a factor, too.)
Guest Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, showed no wear even after an appearance earlier in the day at Fader Fort with his old-old band DeYarmond Edison, with refreshing backing vocals on “Get Much Higher” and beautifully looping his famed “The Woods”/”Lost in the World” sample. Openers Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi and Kid Cudi were all around to aid on their particular spots.
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John Legend -- whose career, like opener Mos Def, has been sustained in part due to G.O.O.D.’s touch – slipped into the set on “Blame Game” and erupted after into a saucy “Ordinary People,” offering advice to the bonkers crowd to “take it slow.”
Those jams came in the middle of a Kanye's devolvement from the defiant “Power” to 25 minutes of emo, capped with the self-realized catharsis of “Runaway,” which in itself broke down into a run of touchy auto-tuned vamps and West flitting his arms. And it was the decidedly NOT the radio edit version – thanks Vevo.
But then in marched the band – no, an honest-to-God marching band and drum line – for a Rihanna-less “All of the Lights” which understandably heightened the mood before Hova made his move.
After all that vulnerability, it was ironic the two turned it on its head, “hard as a mother f*cker,” on “H.A.M.,” the single released in January. Jay-Z was all black everything as seen through the diamonds lifted exultantly in the air. It was a fun reminder, too, that for all the big headed-ness and talk that West has exhibited over the last couple years, Shawn Carter has a good six inches on the guy in height.
And with the start of a new duo track that makes seems to make a nod at “Swagger Like Us,” it was no longer the Kanye Show: it was time to Watch the Thrones, watch the pair of hip-hop kings boom-bap against each other. That track ended with a misfire and kind of a giggle from Kanye. “I forgot that part.” But there was no mistaking "Public Service Announcement (Interlude)" with intro “My name is Hov…” then “So Apalled,” an almost joyous-sounding “Monster” and a half-a capella “Big Pimpin.”
All of the aforementioned plus singer Mr Hudson took the stage “Saturday Night Live”-style for “Good Life,” because, simply, they all came to shine. West must’ve been amped all week to utter the night’s final words, “I’m gooooood” as VIP-ers exited from the floor risers, tottering on high heels and free booze.
It was a spectacle, and for a West-loving fan, it was spectacular and completely unfitting with the rest of the conference. Still, when 30-minute sets and long boring changeovers is the M.O. of this week-long contest, the rapper and all his guests crushed the conceptions with their hands (and stupidly long lines, and a week of hype). You can’t even fault Diddy – whose rock star arrival was humorously attention-seeking – for making the stop, just to witness.
Plus, it could be the start of something G.O.O.D: “Watch the Throne,” were it to drop this season, had its starting block.
Time of death: 4:03 a.m. Estimated time of phoenix-like resurrection: this summer.