Nearly 5,000 people trekked to the Liacouras Center Sunday night to see Grammy award-winning rapper Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky Tour.” And the audience got a few good surprises, including an American Idol, an orchestra and a positive message.
“The SEPTA strike did not stop me,” sophomore Brittany Rykard said. “I came to touch the sky!”
Kanye West, looking as though he stepped off of the cover of GQ magazine, gave the crowd of screaming fans a show to remember. Once West hit the stage, performing “Touch the Sky” from his second album, Late Registration, the fans never sat back in their seats.
West delivered 15 songs from his freshman and sophomore albums. He was also backed by an orchestra – yes, an orchestra at a rap concert – that included a seven-piece, string section. That was not the only surprise of the evening.
Philadelphia’s own Patti LaBelle joined West on his song “Roses,” which is a tribute to his grandmother. Kanye also performed a tribute to his mother with his song “Hey Mama,” backed by the crowd.
Between songs, West also put on a mini fashion show, changing outfits five times, which even included a trendy Temple T-shirt.
West showed the fans why he considers himself the best-dressed rapper when he performed his hit song “Jesus Walks.” Clad in a white suit and sunglasses, he did his signature dance across the stage as fans screamed loudly. He also performed his current single, “Gold Digger,” which is the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“I loved Kanye,” said freshman Dayna Middlestead. She said she especially enjoyed his old-school set and his performance with LaBelle. The show was a success, and fans walked away with a positive message: “Dream On” and “Touch the Sky.”
R&B newcomer Keyshia Cole opened the show with songs from her debut album, The Way It Is. Backed by pre-recorded tracks, Cole performed five songs, including her current single “I Should’ve Cheated” and a cover of Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down.”
Next came American Idol’s Fantasia Barrino, who stormed the stage like a ball of fire. Barrino, whose style resembled legends like Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle, delivered six songs from her nearly double-platinum album, Free Yourself. She also “took the crowd to church,” as she called it, by performing a soul-stirring performance of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
“I’ve seen her on television, but it was very different from that,” said Penn State senior Heidi Haines. “She not only did R&B, but she performed Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ and nailed it,” she said. Haines enjoyed Barrino, but made it clear why she traveled from Harrisburg. “I came to see Kanye.”
Jannine Templeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.