Kanye West took the Made in America stage at 10:37 p.m., entering to the sound of snarling, roaring lions and the confrontational tribal drums of "Black Skinhead." He prowled the stage like a big cat, a brilliant red backdrop behind him. Wearing a mask while the video screens showed him only in stylized silhouette, he slowed the song at the end and quietly rapped: "I always knew they would come for me."
With an amped-up crowd that had been patiently waiting for his arrival in the palm of his hand, West went on to mix catalog hits like "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and the King Crimson-sampling "Power" with further salvos from last year's album Yeezus such as "New Slaves," for which he dramatically removed his mask.
West went on one of his trademark monologues about 25 minutes into his set, reminding his fans that "this s--- we do is serious" and talking about how he makes "music to help more people" and "what we do, we put our lives, out hearts, our soul into. It's three in the morning every night in the studio." He then made a change in the set list, and did "Blood On The Leaves," his song from Yeezus that samples the Nina Simone version of "Strange Fruit," the song about the lynching of African Americans recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939.
Later, in "Runaway," West again got defensive about the people "who think Kanye isn't a good guy," taking to task, among others, comedian Jay Pharoah, who mocked him on last week's MTV VMA awards. His rambling Auto-Tuned, heartfelt speech argued that it's counterproductive to criticize people such as himself who deal in "beauty, truth, love, and just helping the next guy out." He then repeatedly chanted the words "with love, with love ... "
That latter portions of West's set took a celebratory turn - much more so than Yeezus ever did - as he dug into ebullient mid-'00s hits like "Jesus Walks," "Touch The Sky," and "The Good Life," of which he repeatedly said, "It feel like, it feel like, it feel like Philly!"
After finishing with "Bound 2" — you know, the one with the video in which he rides through the desert on a motorcycle with a topless Kim Kardashian straddling him — West returned to the stage perversely, to do "Blood On The Leaves" again. He also irresponsibly tried to instigate a massive mosh pit by urging his fans to start pushing the people next to theme when the song "gets to the part where the beat's all chopped up." People in this concertgoer's vicinity did not pay him heed.