Kanye West's Concert in Israel Was Historic Only on Paper

It's rare for an artist in his prime – like West is now – to perform in Israel, making his concert historic even before walked up the stage; but once he did, it simply wasn't good enough for this hyperbole.

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
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Kanye West performs in Israel, October 1, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

If any concert this summer deserved the superlative "historic," it should have been Kanye West's. He is this moment's biggest pop star, the man of the hour, the artist the world is eagerly awaiting on his every word and action. It's a rare occurrence that Israel is rewarded with a performance from an artist of his caliber at his prime. Usually, we get artists who peaked about 30 or 40 years ago. As such, West's show was so now it was historic. Or half historic. At least on paper. 

In actual fact, the concert wasn't good enough to merit this hyperbole. "To tell you the truth, man? This is super-not exhilarating," I overhead a guy telling his friend about half an hour into the show. He was right, at that moment. The concert picked up later, but not enough for superlatives. 

What the concert lacked the most was something surprising, an edge. But for the first half of the show West only churned out mediocre rap. Even with his really aggressive songs, like Black Skinhead, his performance lacked anything shocking, subversive or interesting. It could be that the venue was to blame. The sound was too milky, not penetrating or moving. This kind of concert is better indoors, where perfect production value can be achieved. 

About 45 minutes into the show, West moved from rap to his singing repertoire, using his infamous auto-tune. At first it had an almost comical effect, but it quickly became apparent that it suited the situation much better, making the pop part of the show a lot more convincing than its hip-hop part.

This review was written while the concert was nearing its end, and it's possible that this change colored the concert in a much brighter palette for many in the audience. Either way, historic it was not. 

The audience at Kanye West's concert in Israel, September 30, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum