It takes a Kanye West-level of hubris to come up with a concert as inventive, surreal and ludicrous as the one that unfolded Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
Never mind that it didn't quite work. In West's vainglorious world, the only thing that matters is that everyone's buzzing about you, and on that level, the tour was a grand success the moment it started.
The conceit of his Saint Pablo Tour is that instead of a traditional stage, West performs on a slow-moving, boxing ring-size platform suspended 20 feet above the floor. It's certainly not the first time a musician has dared to float above his fandom: Jon Bon Jovi strapped on a harness and flew over audiences in the '80s for a song or two. Even Carrie Underwood soared magically across the AAC in a glass-bottom Western corral for a few tunes during her 2012 show.
West one-upped them by floating magic-carpet style for his entire hour-and-45-minute show and -- in true Kanye fashion --making fans traipse back and forth across the floor like a huge flock of sheep following a shepherd.
The sheep didn't seem to mind. In fact, the swarming masses on the floor were ecstatic - jumping, jiving and body-surfing underneath the stage the whole time. It wasn't so much a concert as it was the world's biggest movable dance party.
But if you came expecting to actually see West, you were out of luck. Never mind the sightline nightmares created by the aerial stage. The bigger problem was that West chose to perform the entire show in the shadows, without a single spotlight, making it nearly impossible to see him as anything but a silhouette. Four video screens were no help either since the images they showed of West were, for some reason, blurred electronically.
What was the point of all this murk?
Perhaps the increasingly art-conscious West was trying to use the arena as a giant canvas to create some sort of bleak, minimalist painting.
Or maybe he demanded the lighting be dim so nobody could spot the cable tethered to him to keep him from falling off the stage.
At one point, a few fans actually got to see his face when he plopped onto his stomach and peered down at the audience as he rapped "I Love Kanye." But leave it to West to save the show's sole moment of eye contact for a song that centers on the lyrics "I love Kanye like Kanye loves Kanye."
The show's problems didn't stop at its visuals. Apparently trying to set a Guinness World Record for loudest bass, West cranked up the bottom to 11 until fans in the lower bowl could feel their teeth rattle and their skin tingle. As a result, it was the only concert in the history of the AAC where the music actually sounded clearer in the nosebleed seats.
Forgoing opening acts, West started the show nearly an hour-and-a-half late -- a marathon wait that gave fans plenty of time to buy his merchandise. When he finally did appear, he served up a healthy 30-song set-list made up of all the requisite hits ("Jesus Walks," "Stronger," "Touch the Sky") and the bulk of his eighth and latest album, The Life of Pablo. Setting up "Famous" -- a song infamous for its cheap shot at Taylor Swift -- West had the gumption to call it "the most important song I ever wrote."
West has never been hip-hop's most expressive rapper, but at least he's improving as a singer. Crooning nonstop through "Heartless," "Runaway" and "Only One," West showed a sense of confidence and soul that his singing lacked earlier in his career. As always, he relied heavily on an autotune-like effect, but you got the sense he might one day abandon that crutch.
While he didn't banter or rant as much as he has on past tours, he did open up near the end of the show about the challenges he's faced in his life and career.
"Sometimes when you try new (stuff), you fail," he said.
Thursday night's show was proof of that. But it's a credit to West's moxie that even his failed concerts are more interesting that most artists' successful ones.