Kanye West at the St James, Auckland

By Rebecca Barry Hill

They say he's arrogant. They call him cocky. They've obviously never seen Kanye West live.

Resplendent in a sparkly Adidas jacket, huge, sci-fi shades and a smile so white it reached the back of the room, the biggest man in hip-hop made his entrance to Diamonds from Sierra Leone, looking every bit the rockstar. The kind you could bring home to mum, that is.

Let's not forget the Grammy winner bothered to show up after two-thirds of his touring schedule were cancelled. He might have refused interviews but he didn't pack an ego with his flashy wardrobe.

Instead, he looked as though he was having a genuinely good time as he cranked out hit after hit from his two brilliant albums, The College Dropout and Late Registration, pausing only to change into a bolero jacket, and later, a preppy white shirt. When the shades came off, they revealed eyes too wide and appreciative for self-importance.

The complexity of the arrangements required a bit of help anyway, so a string section, back-up singers, DJ and surprise guest in fellow rapper Common, shared his glory. The crowd were just as happy to pitch in on Heard 'Em Say, All Falls Down and Gold Digger.

If we did need reminding of his genius it came when the DJ dropped hits written by West and made famous by Ludacris and Jay-Z. But he also revealed a funny side when he admitted he couldn't remember the words to a song he attempted in the encore.

This was a gig that heralded new heights in live hip-hop. Where else but a Kanye West concert will you ever see a violinist grooving with her instrument in hand? Or sing along to lyrics slating bling culture? Or get jiggy to Shirley Bassey, Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding?

If West wants to talk himself up, he should go right ahead.


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