druid chic

We are living in an age of Kanye West’s bliss. It wasn’t always clear we’d get here. For long stretches of the last few years, he’d been aggrieved, dissatisfied, angsty. The system - the music business, the fashion industry, American society, you name it - was letting him down and he wasn’t content to let that go without comment. 

But lately, publicly, at least, he has been soothed. He is married, to Kim Kardashian. They have a daughter, North, and a son on the way. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. West presented his second show at New York Fashion Week, an achievement he’s been working toward for years…sometimes the paparazzi even catch him smiling.

So it’s an unusual moment for him to choose to revisit what was almost certainly his emotional nadir, and the art that came from it. But there he was Friday night, at the Hollywood Bowl, playing the first of two shows dedicated to his 2008 album, 808s and Heartbreak, one of the most radical left turns by a modern-day pop star and an album of acute pain…

On stage here, he played 808s as a sort of Greek tragedy. Outfitted in druid chic, drapey garments in shades of white and off-white, Mr. West largely kept his energy centered and mellow. Backed by a small band and a medium-sized orchestra, he cast these songs as meditations, especially on tracks from the first half of the album, like ‘Welcome to Heartbreak’ and 'Heartless’…

For [Pinocchio Story], Mr. West re-emerged encased in burlap from head to toe, like a mummy or walking pincushion, and ambled around the stage. Even though his eyes weren’t visible and he could make only the most cursory of gestures because of the thickness of his outfit, he somehow managed an intense emotional bluntness that was overwhelming. 'You’ll never figure out real love’, the song goes, but here, at the end, he shouted 'I feel so much love tonight!’

—  “Shining A Light On His Darkest Hour”, NYTimes review of Kanye West at the Hollywood Bowl, September 28, 2015