x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Snow business: Kanye West brings an eye-grabbing show to Abu Dhabi

Kanye West's performance this time around was full of spectacle.

Kanye West performed at the du Arena on Yas Island on Thursday night. Delores Johnson / The National
Kanye West performed at the du Arena on Yas Island on Thursday night. Delores Johnson / The National

In stark contrast to his 2010 F1 show in Abu Dhabi, when he performed in front of a dreary, featureless backdrop, the US rapper Kanye West went for an all-out visual spectacle this time around.

He may have realised, over the ensuing years, that perhaps he's not a dynamic enough performer to hold the attentions of a stadium audience.

So this time he took to the du Arena on Thursday night to a spectacular set enclosed by giant screens projecting images of turbulent weather, while the stage itself was designed to look like he was singing from inside a giant iceberg. Meanwhile, paper snowflakes were intermittently blasted over the crowds by giant blowers.

Equally memorable was Kanye's choice of outfits, which within hours had made international news. His dress sense seems to be becoming more bizarre by the hour.

So, just weeks after sporting a leather kilt at a benefit concert in New York for victims of Hurricane Sandy, here on Yas Island he donned a white straitjacket, complete with what could only be described as a yeti mask. While this wintry weather theme was impressive enough, it all seemed somewhat incongruous with the balmy heat of a January night in the UAE, as proven by the beads of sweat pouring from Kanye's brow as he performed.

As for the music, Kanye rapidly ploughed his way through many of his hits - including the likes of Heartless, All Falls Down and Stronger.

Kanye's popularity in recent years has rested on his ability to mix hip-hop style braggadocio with a tortured introspection. And this was evident on stage, as at times he appeared close to meltdown, falling to his knees in quivering emotion as he crooned away.

Of course, this went down a storm with his diehard fans, who seemed in giddy delirium as they chanted along to his hits.

But for more fair-weather followers, there were niggles, such as his refusal to take an encore and the absence of some of his most popular songs from the set list. Yes, Kanye may well be sick of singing Gold Digger by now, but its absence seemed arrogant.

All in all, this was a truly memorable, if somewhat curious, evening's entertainment.

hberger@thenational.ae