Kanye West, With Spaceship, Conquers Madison Square Garden

Kanye and his exotic pet fireball. Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday, we tried to predict just whom Kanye West might trot out at the MSG stop of his "Glow in the Dark" tour. Today we admit that our projections were utterly wrong. We heard that Jay-Z was backstage, and someone who had better seats than we did saw John Legend in some VIP section, but the only person other than Kanye allowed on the actual stage was opening act Lupe Fiasco (who did his quite awesome verse for the quite awesome set closer “Touch the Sky”). This was calculated: Nothing — not the band, tucked down in front of the stage, award-show style; not the stage setup, with a giant screen underneath Kanye illuminating his every jerky dance move; and definitely not any surprise appearance — was supposed share West's spotlight. The tour, we understood, is Kanye’s big fat victory lap after a hugely successful but personally difficult year. “This is the first time I’ve played this building by myself,” he gushed.

Falling back mostly on stuff off Graduation, Kanye had no problem owning the night. Some moments, like the “Throw your hands up into the sky” refrain on “Good Life,” were so clearly the stuff of epic sing-alongs that we had no choice but tip our hats to the very calculated Kanye — and, also, you know, to throw our hands up into the sky. The loose premise of the show was that West and Jane, his … spaceship, had crash-landed on this planet (sub–original–Star Trek moon-surface stage design? Check). ’Ye, in some sort of postapocalyptic space rags, was selling the bit hard. It was hammy and harmless, for the most part, except for when Jane figured out how they were going to get off the planet — “We need the biggest star in the universe! You, Kanye!” Uh, yeah. Also questionable was the band segueing into “Don’t Stop Believing” right after the earnest “Hey Mama.” But we, at least, thought it was rad. Kanye, slumped in the corner of the stage regaining his composure, didn’t want to waste any time getting back to the epic stuff — and so he let Journey do it for him. —Amos Barshad