Everyone's favourite rapper Mr Kanye West was at the Opera House on Sunday night; or, to put it more accurately, Mr Utzon's vast but vanilla interiors were transformed by a glittering riot of fedoras, sharp white suits, feathered hats, shades; the whole place was like a demented Hype Williams video. (And to think I'd chosen the Mahler and Mozart double-header to get loaded. What was I thinking?)
So anyway, I went down thanks to a handy invite from the lovely people at Universal records, and took my seat among the seats reserved for the industry. I know this, because we were just about the only people who don't shake our collective tail-feathers the moment the beats begin. Too cool for school, I suppose, which is a shame because I wanted to GET UP ON IT.
After a small eternity, things started to happen. A dozen elegant string players from the Sydney Symphony took their seats in the bleachers, led by woman in white who was later introduced as Kanye's musical director. She played like a demon and, when not fiddling up a storm, spent the rest of her time exhorting the crowd to lose it. With a line-up rounded off by turntablist extraordinaire DJ A-Track, and two superb backing singers who provide all the vocal samples, the sounds was as rich and deep as any hip hop show could be.
After a tantalising overture of Diamonds Are Forever, Kanye himself appeared in white-rimmed shades, black gloves, and a neckerchief mask, looking like a Hamas Michael Jackson. The sound started out muddy, the strings and rhymes submerged beneath the awesome bottom end. But after that, everything was frikkin' amazing...
Some highlights: Gold Digger. The DJ begun this with the barrel house blues of the original Ray Charles track - but no-one was fooled; and no-one remained seated, especially after those heavyweight quarter beats at the start were teasingly elongated over four machine gun bars before the rasping clavichord melody kicked in. (At least I think it's a clavichord... Similar to Superstition...Answers on a postcard)
The string medley of Bittersweet Symphony and Eleanor Rigby. Delicious...
Jesus Walks. This song is already tre intense, but this time the string section ratcheted up the tension, providing the staccato stabs of the original.
Roses. I swear to God: EVERYONE knew every single word. There's something surreal about being in the Opera House and hearing thousands of people chanting "Bitch, are you smoking reefer?" Something very cool about it too. See also: the bit when everyone growled along with "My grandfather trying to pull it together. He's strong".
Kanye's between-track chatter is both jaw-droppingly boastful and winningly cheeky. He plays a few verses from a bunch of his own productions - Jay-Z, Ludacris, etc - and then says "I did these. You thought I was just about the tunes? These are MY beats!" And how's this for ego: "I don't really know how to say this.... but I'm a big deal". Cue deafening applause.
Gone. Another chance for the string section to show their chops.
And not forgetting the section in the middle where he played along with some classic tunes. First up was Al Green's Let's Stay Together, followed by Rock With You by Michael Jackson. The third track...? In fact, it was Take On Me by A-Ha, complete with Kanye dancing about like a happy tool, and the DJ dropping out the beats for the ecstatic crowd to provide the chorus.
"They said I couldn't bring hip hop to the Opera House".
Boy, were they wrong.
Finally, here's me and the peeps from Universal and iTunes: