Saturday was a full day for Kanye West. Following the unveiling of the adidas Originals x Kanye West collection at a New York fashion show on 12 February, and the release – and instant sellout – a few weeks later of the first shoe from the collection, the Yeezy 750 Boost, Saturday saw the release of the next-in-line Yeezy 350 Boost Low. Then on Saturday evening, Kanye took to the Pyramid Stage to headline the Glastonbury Festival.
Appropriate for the wintry season, the Yeezy 750 Boost was a high-top boot in thick grey suede, with white ‘boost’ soles and three fastenings: laces, a front strap, and a side zip with a velcro covering. The Yeezy 350 Boost Low only clearly retains a streamlined version of the white ‘boost’ sole. A low-top sneaker, it is made of unlined, black-and-white patterned adidas Primeknit, with hatched black-and-white laces and a pull tab on the heel, whose red stitching subtly breaks the colour palette. A full list of the sneaker’s features incorporates their moccasin construction with sonic welded seam tape, clarino lining to prevent any slippage, premium suede arch support, and antimicrobial sockliner cover.
The Yeezy 350 Boost Low was made available via a wider number of retailers than for the Yeezy 750 Boost, with the sneakers appearing in adidas retail stores across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia. Fans began lining up outside prospective outlets as early, in a few extreme cases, as Monday; while the adidas Confirmed app, built for such prominent sneaker releases, crashed under the stress of attempted reservations towards the end of the week. The sneakers, of course, were a sellout. Those buying early on Saturday at the adidas Originals store in London, on Fouberts Place, got to meet the artist personally, as Kanye showed up ahead of his Glastonbury performance.
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It was Kanye’s first time headlining at Glastonbury, and the occasion was not without controversy. If it was ever remotely plausible, then the petition, signed by just under 135,000, to get Kanye replaced by a rock band; the nature of some of the banners held aloft during his set; and then the on-stage interruption by British ‘comedian’ Lee Nelson, all ensured that Kanye would refrain from offering the audience an outgoing and upbeat reminder of his greatest hits. He didn’t need to ask: instead of running slickly through a regular programme of songs, he was going to relax in his own way and play the equivalent of a fifty-five minute ‘Louie Louie’.
This was after Kanye’s exceptional and openhearted string of televised performances, in England and across Europe earlier this year, singing ‘Only One’. But a minor yet prominent strain of British music, just like British culture, remains stuck in the mire of a dismal mid-1990s. While in practise Glastonbury may have extended far beyond the sound, in the popular conception the festival remains defined by the mediocrities of Oasis, Blur, Arctic Monkeys; more gladly associated too with Coldplay, and with some of rock’s most questionable senior acts. The Who were headlining on Sunday night; prior to Kanye, Beyoncé back in 2011 was the last relevant act to head a day’s worth of music at Glastonbury.
A culturally slow-witted group, bearing racist tendencies, finds in Kanye – on the basis of his misconstrued musical attributes, his perceived arrogance, and his frequently-condemned relationship with Kim Kardashian – an easy target for their blustering ideology. However Kanye is a great artist, and everything about his set on Saturday night proved engaging: from the atmosphere conjured by his lone figure, in spattered denim on the cavernous dark stage, under mist and a low-hanging bank of white lights; to the driving moments, the slow modulations, the gaps and hesitations across his songs.
He opened with some of his boldest and most crowd-pleasing compositions, ‘Stronger’, ‘Power’, and ‘Niggas in Paris’, then moved swiftly on to more recent selections from his catalogue: ‘Black Skinhead’; ‘All Day’, his latest single, from the upcoming album SWISH; the Cruel Summer compilation tracks ‘Cold’, Clique’, and the Chief Keef remix ‘I Don’t Like’; ‘New Slaves’; ‘Blood on the Leaves’; and Rihanna’s ‘FourFiveSeconds’. Then Justin Vernon emerged for an almost-wordless, drawn-out, rumbling rendition of ‘Lost in the World’, during which Kanye explained to the audience that the song’s lyrics were inspired by his now-wife Kim.
By this stage the distance between Kanye and the attending crowd had been loosely but decisively defined, and he sloped purposefully and groped deliberately through the remainder of his two-hour-long allocation. Some of his more popular recent pieces, including ‘Hold My Liquor’ and ‘Bound 2’, were barely begun.
After ‘Runaway’ and ‘Only One’, scarcely audible on-stage muttering had the crowd concerned that the performance was over prematurely: but then Kanye appeared high above them atop a cherry picker, and gave thumping presentations of ‘Touch the Sky’ and ‘All of the Lights’. He grinned momentarily and openly engaged those in attendance with a few bars from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – inevitably better than Queen’s original – then ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ brought the close. Returning just as suddenly for an encore, and there was some ‘Gold Digger’, a snatch of ‘All Falls Down’ – and cut. For the self-proclaimed ‘greatest living rock star on the planet’ – but of this there can be little doubt – best to leave them wanting.
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