Kanye West closed out the South by Southwest Music Festival early Sunday morning with the festival's most buzzed-about show, amid a lot of griping from people who didn't get in.
At the free show at VEVO Power Station, where guests spent hours standing in line for entry, West brought on guests Mos Def, John Legend, Jay-Z, Kid Cudi and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
The music online company Vevo had advertised on Twitter a week in advance and the first 600 to text “KANYE” and their full name got admission, along with a long list of invited guests. (The company said it received 10,000 RSVPs within an hour of opening the guest list a few days ago.)
Several thousand fans who had been confirmed as guest were "uninvited" by text on Saturday and Vevo made a public apology, saying that the Austin Police Department had limited the number of people inside the venue, which has a capacity of 2,500.
As I lined up hours in advance, trains screamed by the power station. Many girls took off their heels and sat on the ground while some guys with bolt cutters and ingenuity cut in line. I had to pee pretty bad by hour two. It felt like they were testing our resolve.
The location — an actual power plant though you wouldn't know it — was transformed into a world-class venue, with a giant sign reading “GOOD MUSIC” glowing onstage and a black, red and blue light theme.
Legend was the first entertainer to perform and he drew cheers, especially during his solo for “Blame Game” as he segued into “Ordinary People.” But eventually he drove the crowd (or maybe just me) to the bathroom line.
Def appeared onstage in some sort of Mardi-Gras-meets-Phantom-of -the-Opera mask. His highlight was “Oh No,” a tribute to Nate Dogg who passed away at age 41 five days ago.
Pusha T followed around 3 a.m. Perhaps it was just that he was further in the set, but the crowd favored him over Mos Def. It all seemed a bit rushed, but everyone was too eager for West to appear to complain.
Cyhi Da Prynce (who was rumored to have been cut) followed with a violin player.
And then West appeared, with a full marching band, for “All the Lights.” This is in addition to the strippers. Yes, pole-dancers climbed the scaffolding lining the stage.
Later technical difficulties incited a near riot as West left the stage and the crowd thought he might not come back. But the live guitars for “Power” made it worth the trouble.
The crowd completely lost it on the first note of “Runaway.” (I think that’s when you’ve made it— one note induces euphoria.)
West had a few costume changes (what do you expect from the man?) but his best was his all-red suit, sort of a sexy devil and fitting, considering the lyrics of “Runaway.”
Jay-Z joined him for “Ham” and hand-triangles swayed over heads like lighters. At the music interlude they both stood perfectly still, working the pause. West jumped from song to song with mini versions of “So Appalled” and “Big Pimpin.”
I thought it had to be over after Jay-Z, but West returned with Justin Vernon for “Lost in the World.” Vernon, known for the quiet indie rock of Bon Iver, might seem like an awkward collaborator. But it was anything but awkward, the entire crowd screaming and shouting the lyrics.
Just after 5 a.m, West excited the stage with the words, “Good night cruel world, I’ll see you in the morning.”