Kanye West at SXSW: Jay-Z, John Legend, Kid Cudi and more join all-star festival closeout

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Image Credit: WireImage/Getty

Maybe it’s true that no one man should have all that power. Or maybe Kanye West just needed his own power station—specifically, the city’s long-dormant nuclear-era Seaholm Power Plant—to host his bold-faced SXSW festival blowout on Saturday night.

The free show, announced via high-production-values promo video by sponsor Vevo only days before, attracted scads of hopefuls livin’ in the 21st century and very much hoping to do something mean to it. Though for nearly two agitated hours, the only aspirants allowed entry were the already-famous: a leather-jacketed Diddy (with three-car convoy), tennis star Andy Roddick and his swimsuit model/actress wife Brooklyn Decker (“YEAH, PETE SAMPRAS!” yelled one witty lineholder), and other assorted sunglasses-at-night types who rolled up in SUVs with full security details, not on foot or via ubiquitous pedicab.

But the the lucky few pass-holders and early arrivers were eventually rewarded, and their disgruntlement turned to giddiness upon entry. A cavernous, eerily-lit space perched above the city’s Town Lake, its retro-futuristic towers glowing in the moonlight, Seaholm’s unique setting seemed to confirm that the night could turn into the kind of South-By story that gets told and retold: already, rumors of Jay-Z’s presence in-house ran rampant, as did a few less likely stabs at viral OMG-osity (Radiohead! Rihanna!).

The stage show that finally began near 1am was very much a G.O.O.D. family celebration: a dapper Mos Def yielding his crisp set to Pusha T, who obliged the crowd with Clipse classics like “Grindin’.” Lesser-known G.O.O.D. associates Big Sean and  Cyhi Da Prince earned more muted responses, as did Mr. Hudson, the Brit whose New Romantic croonings, even on his reimagined Alphaville hook for Hova’s “Young Forever,” seemed to leave the room underwhelmed.

Not so Kid Cudi, who, after a Cab Calloway-style (and umbrella-free) fancy-dancing cameo from Fonzworth Bentley, gave the crowd exactly what they wanted after days of long lines and unknown baby bands: The hits. “Day ‘n’ Night” and the underwater wallop “Pursuit of Happiness” primed the room for a surprisingly early (in Eastern Mountain Yeezy time) 2:30am entry for the man of the past-midnight hour.

The unmistakable chords of “Dark Fantasy” led to lights up on a leather-clad ‘Ye, who played it close to the MBDTF bone, dipping only occasionally into outside tracks like the G.O.O.D. Friday favorite “Christian Dior Denim Flow” and 808s and Heartbreak’s “Say You Will,” before Bon Iver’s spare Midwestern folkie Justin Vernon—fresh from a far more coffeehouse-flavored evening set at the Fader Fort—came on to assist on his Fantasy track “Lost in the World.”

John Legend reappeared to perform his 2005 hit “Ordinary People,” a classy mid-set aperitif (and most likely, an opportunity arranged to allow Kanye time to change into his Eddie Murphy-Delirious red leathers), and West recovered nicely when “Power” hit the skids on a technical snafu, restarting (and then killing) the track where once he may have thrown a tantrum, or simply walked off.

But it’s not really a party until the marching band comes in, no? And so they did, making Rihanna’s absence on “All of the Lights” a non-issue with their thunderous, full-brass-and-percussion assist.

The sea of held-aloft camera-phones and even a few iPads (see, it’s just like a Bic lighter! except 5,000 times more breakable and expensive!) went into bananas overdrive when another king joined the throne. Yes, believers, Hova was in the building.

A run through f—in’ ridick-ilous anthems “H.A.M.,” “Monster,” “So Appalled,” and “Big Pimpin'” followed, and one chaotic, everybody-in-the-pool take on “The Good Life,” later,  it was all over, bleary-eyed showgoers streaming out into the nearly-morning night for home or, less kindly, the airport that would lead them home.

Exhausting? No doubt. Even my fingernails are tired as I type this. But as every South-By veteran knows, sleep is always secondary to getting that story, one to be embroidered and “I was there”-ed forevermore. And judging by their beatific, energy-drink-addled expressions, this crowd knew they had a whopper.

UPDATE: VEVO reps say you can watch the show, but not yet: “On-demand content will be available on VEVO on April 22 (G.O.O.D. Friday).”

Comments (26 total) Add your comment
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  • anthony

    say what you will, and i’m sure the haters will show up soon… but kanye puts on a great show. hova is just icing, very good icing

    • m

      Ahh Jay z. Entire legacy is attributed to hot 97 being in def jam’s pocket for most of the 90s and 2000s. Average rapper with lots of airplay. Can’t rhyme well, had big daddy kane help write reasonable doubt, jay z is the most overrated rapper of all time.

      • Rich

        Haters gonna hate, lovers wanna love. (I don’t even want none of the above.)

      • C-Dub

        In your opinion M.

      • Leslie

        I love him and CityFriendships was amazing

  • Chris

    EW, please dont send me to a page with spam on it hmm? No matter how good Power is….

  • JC

    I’m just ready for all the hipsters and journalists to get out of my already-too-crowded town. SXSW hasn’t stuck to it’s initial purpose or been cool since the ’90s.

    • Tom

      sxsw is bogus.. just like coachella now

      • Ruf

        Totally agree, like where was Justin Bieber?

  • whatever

    What happened to SXSW? Didn’t it used to be about indie bands and “undiscovered” up-and-comers?

  • Tye-Grr

    Sounds absolutely epic. I wish I could’ve been there.

  • O

    Yeah I was NOT prepared this year. Pulling off a successful SXSW trip is like getting into Harvard or something.

  • ZD

    Why is Pete Sampras linked??

  • the realist

    as a person,kanye west needs to grow up.mush-mouth clown that he is.
    cam’ron=gay
    li’l wayne=knowingly did a transvestite in jail
    chingy or jingy or whatever the hell his name is=also did a trannie

  • Katie G

    Kanye put on the best concert I’ve ever been to.
    Outdoor festival here in Ottawa, it rained, and he reigned supreme. He knows how to put on a show.

  • Ruf

    This was Austin’s first concert performed by lawn jockey chimp.

    • Liz

      Who are u calling a chimp ! F-U keep your poor taste of a opinion to yourself please dont infest the wolrd by opening you dirty mouth, thanks

  • Liz

    Go kanye! Your true fans love you no matter what ;)

  • Wu-Tang Forever

    Hardest working man in hip-hop… Wish I could have been there

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