Yeezus rose again on Saturday night as Kanye West resumed his tour in Philadelphia following an equipment-damaging truck accident that's kept him sidelined since then and resulted in a string of canceled and postponed concerts. This is the inside story from the guys who built—and then rebuilt—the support structure for the tour's 60-foot video screen and got Kanye back on the road.
1. Early 2013:
Kanye West meets with his creative team to discuss the Yeezus tour’s stage design. Out of seven proposed concepts, West picks one with two stages, a fake mountain, and a 60-foot circular LED screen. “I tried to convince him to do other things,” says John McGuire, the tour’s production designer. “But Kanye wanted a 60-foot screen, so we had to build him a 60-foot screen.”
2. September 2013:
Eric Pearce, owner of Las Vegas’s Show Group Production Services, is hired to build the trusses to support the 24,000-pound screen. “We had fourteen days to build these structures, which would normally take six weeks,” says Pearce, who had to delay a project for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra to complete the job.
3. October 19:
The Yeezus tour launches in Seattle. Jesus makes a cameo appearance. But the highlight of the show is the screen, which tilts back and forth and, at one point, rises 60 feet in the air. “The screen is pure sensory overload,” says McGuire. “It emulates the sky, so if you have floor seats, it’s like being at the Griffith Observatory.”
4. October 31:
An equipment truck carrying segments of the screen’s trusses is in an accident on the way to Vancouver, damaging some pieces beyond repair. (The screen itself, made up of smaller four-by-four-foot panels, was unharmed, despite reports that said otherwise.)
5. October 31:
West postpones concerts in Vancouver, Denver, and Minneapolis (and, later, Chicago, Toronto, and Detroit). “Without the screen, we lose a third of the show,” says McGuire.
6. October 31:
McGuire calls Pearce and asks him to build a new truss. “They asked if I could do it in seven days,” says Pearce. “I said no, but we compromised on ten.”
7. Early November:
A crew of 30-plus people works twenty hours a day to rebuild the truss. Midway through production, the screen’s circular frame is shipped from L.A.
to Las Vegas, where Show Group’s other shop can continue working on it. They finish in ten days, with no hiccups. “The final product was even more perfect than the initial one,” says Pearce.
8. November 6:
West announces that the Yeezus tour will resume in Philadelphia on November 16. After that, he’ll play Barclays Center on November 19 and Madison Square Garden on November 23.
*This article originally appeared in the November 25, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.