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Was it worth spending €200 on Kanye West's listening party?

In search of answers following the artist's performance

Was it worth spending €200 on Kanye West's listening party? In search of answers following the artist's performance
Alberto Castellano

The lights of the Forum of Assago go out: at the center of the stage, a cylindrical installation illuminates the silhouettes of Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign. After the persistent rumors about the Campovolo concert last summer, which remained a utopia, Kanye West finally performs in Italy. It's not a concert like any other, but rather a listening experience, a format that music enthusiasts in Italy may not yet be culturally ready for. However, the FOMO, compared to the likelihood that the event may disappoint the expectations of those present, prevails. Despite Vultures 1 being available on streaming platforms since February 9th, despite the presence of Playboi Carti, Freddie Gibbs, Quavo, and Rich The Kid being spoiled for days now, the unpredictability factor is crucial: «What if Kanye played Runaway in the middle of the evening?»; «What if the ultras of Inter's Curva Nord actually got on stage to sing Carnival?».

The stands of the Forum of Assago are not packed: until a few hours before, many tickets were still unsold, perhaps because the crazy prices managed to intimidate those who dreamed of admiring Ye live. The evening lasts an hour (approximately), and the tracks of Vultures 1 are reproduced in order of the tracklist. No interludes, no speeches, just a somewhat awkward mimicry: Kanye & Co move on stage improvising dances, amidst the beam of light emitted by the cylinder and the dark corners of the arena, exiting and entering the scene, as if it were a theatrical performance with a poorly written script. There are no surprises, except for the playback of Everybody, the only track played during the evening that is not contained in Vultures 1, and which will most likely appear in Vultures 2 - also spoiled months ago, through multiple snippets published by the artist himself. Just like the visual background (there wasn't even a visual on the "stage"), Kanye's outfit was also "low effort": leather pants, boots, mask, and The North Face Nuptse puffer jacket. The artist, while remaining masked throughout the evening, exposed himself in a completely innovative way or did he simply scam us?

From Kanye's - perhaps intentionally embarrassing - movements, a form of discomfort and total alienation emerges, the result of a whirlwind of emotions and events that have overwhelmed his personal and professional life. The pantomimes on stage, throwing himself to the ground clutching his chest, were perhaps gestures that wanted to symbolize Ye's tormented genius, the romantic narrative pattern that distinguishes him the most and has made him iconic in the global artistic panorama. Despite the estrangement elicited in the audience by his frenetic movements, Ye's intention was to build a new type of dialogue with the audience. But the proxemic distance, the constant feeling of impasse (almost Beckettian) experienced watching him move and pose on stage was also a means of self-celebration. Instead of creating an intimacy bond with the audience, Kanye distanced himself even more, making himself "unreachable" in the eyes of the spectators. Last night, there was no way to be carried away by Kanye's charisma, he could be admired without empathy, feeling totally estranged from his feelings. The listening experience was a first-rate voyeuristic spectacle, and despite many being disappointed by the absence of unpredictability, the communicative power of a silent performance will remain impressed in the minds of those present.

Before a total disappearance from the line-ups of the most important global music events, Kanye was an entertainer, a showman in the true sense of the word, and the performances that could be cited as examples are countless. For this reason, those who regretted an evening like the release party of The Life Of Pablo yesterday are not entirely wrong. But it's important to contextualize the mood of an artist with an exaggerated ego who wants to share a thought and a state of mind not conforming to today's society standards. The Kanye of "once", was anything but "Off The Grid", he was perpetually in the spotlight, and it is this constant exposure that has made him an impactful personality for an entire generation that has never abandoned him in any moment of difficulty. Only in this way has his art survived every attempt of cancellation. In the background, there is the collective strength of artists that Ye manages to channel and include like no one else, the same "colleagues" with whom he chose to perform on stage, where he decided not to sing a single note and to veil his facial movements under a black mask. Kanye's music cannot be turned off and is cross-generational, as evidenced by the teenagers filming themselves to the notes of Burn.