ACL Live Shots
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Sept. 23, 2011
Kanye WestZilker Park, Sept. 16
The biggest single day ever for hip-hop at ACL ended with pop's most polarizing star delivering the most theatrical festival set since Bjork touched down from Venus via Iceland four years ago. As ballerinas swirled across the stage in front of a giant backdrop of battling Greek gods, Kanye West towered some 50 feet above the massive crowd on a hydraulic lift. The chorus of "Dark Fantasy" – "Can we get much higher?" – was rendered rhetorical. His feet back on terra firma, the Act 1 triumvirate of "Power," "Jesus Walks," and "Can't Tell Me Nothing" hit with the force of Zeus' thunderbolt. None of the rumored guests (Jay-Z, Bon Iver) appeared for "Monster," but Yeezy needed no help on this night. For all of the grandiosity (the Act 2 laser show was extraordinary), Kanye was often alone onstage, armed with only a microphone and an astonishing array of hits ("Touch the Sky," "Gold Digger," "Stronger"). With nods to Michael Jackson throughout, including a "P.Y.T." intro spilling into "Good Life" and an extra shout-out on "All of the Lights," West clearly has his sights set on becoming the next king of pop, if not Mount Olympus. For a spectacle that began by feeding the notion of West's god complex, it ended with genuine humility. He thanked his dancers in heartfelt detail and closed with "Hey Mama," a tribute to his fallen mother. It's Kanye's Fantasy; we're just living in it.