Kanye West, Forum, London

Forum, London

A protege of Jay-Z and Damon Dash, Kanye West is not one to hide his light under a bushel. To be fair, he would need a very big bushel. In the past six months, the Chicago MC-producer has crafted hits for Twista, 411 and Janet Jackson, and released 2004's biggest hip-hop album yet, The College Dropout.

Consequently, tonight's show has an air of self-congratulation. West's autobiographical single, Through the Wire, even has the triumph-over-adversity plot of a TV movie: hot young up-and-comer breaks his jaw in a car crash, may never rap again, pulls through, becomes superstar. Hooray. He also performs Last Call, a punishingly detailed account of his life so far, although he mercifully stops before the point when he describes assembling an Ikea bed.

But wait, there's more. In the middle of the set, the ubiquitous Damon Dash presents his star player with a platinum disc, then spends the rest of the show dancing like a seven-year-old boy. During Spaceship he sticks out his arms out sideways to portray some kind of interplanetary craft. Amazingly, this man is worth £100m.

So, like most hip-hop shows, this is long on vanity and fooling about - but West's exceptional showmanship raises it above the norm. Highlights from the album, plus hits he produced for the likes of Ludacris, are impeccably rendered with the aid of a caramel-voiced pianist and a violinist in a sequinned bra, who zips expertly between Beethoven and Jay-Z to roars of approval.

West is rap's foremost sentimentalist, and he performs the last few songs with only piano for accompaniment. With each song swelling like a showstopper, the set has more false endings than The Return of the King, and almost as much hugging. For all its corn, though, this is terrific entertainment: the energy never flags, the crowd's enthusiasm never wanes. West's talent is as formidable as his ego.


Dorian Lynskey

The GuardianTramp

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