Friday, June 10, 2011

Heineken Red Star Soul @ Skylight One Hanson, June 9, 2011

Now as many of you know and maybe some of you don't, I was not going to review this show. Of course the reason being the fact that up until a couple days ago, I wasn't going to the show because I didn't get tickets. Why didn't I, a master of getting free tickets, get tickets to a Heineken show. Well let's analyze that first. I'm going to apologize in advance for how long this review is, but I feel like venting about this entire Heineken ordeal...

Now if you've been reading my blog since the beginning, you would know how I feel about the party throwers and PR people from Heineken, they are (or at least WERE) the reigning champions of the event. Last year they threw the coolest hip-hop concert of the year in New York City, complete with performances by Nas and Cee-Lo, lots of free food, and of course, free Heineken until your eyes bleed. The best part was how easy it was for people to access the show: send a text message to a number, after that you're added to the list. On the day of the show they text you with the venue and the time and you go and party it up. Brilliant. It really couldn't have been done more perfect. This year's show was nothing like that.

Heineken's Facebook page was filled with nothing but useless "updates" from Heineken on how you could get access to this year's show, which of course featured GOOD Music's own Kanye West. Everyone thought that the party masters Heineken would do a sort of RSVP thing that they did last year. Heineken up until a couple weeks ago weren't very clear as to how it would be done so there was no reason for people to think otherwise. Come to find out the only way you were going to get into this secret Kanye show was to win tickets on Hot97! Yes, the radio station! Hot97 was apparently giving away 12 sets of four tickets and you had to call in and win them, and that was the only way any actual Kanye fans would have gotten to go. Terrible right?

It was so terrible and Heineken got so much backlash from it (on their Facebook page) that they decided to give out 50 more pairs of tickets through an email contest basically the day before the show. Maybe they should have done that from the get go? It doesn't matter, because it was quite clear from the way it was set up that most of the people that were going to be in attendance were people who worked for Heineken, friends of those people, or other corporate sponsors. What a difference a year makes right? While I was actually at the show I randomly asked people I ran into at the venue, how they managed to get in. All but one person was a worker with Heineken or a friend of someone who works at Hot97, etc. Unfair indeed. Having said that, of course, I got tickets the same way. I know someone who had an extra ticket and they were nice enough to pass it to me. Off I go to the venue, which was apparently in Downtown Brooklyn?!

Skylight One Hanson is owned by the people who own Skylight Soho, a really awesome event space down in the Soho area, obviously. The Brooklyn version is a gigantic residential luxury apartment building with a huge event space inside that held the show. After checking in with the guestlist and getting my wristband I made my entrance, and it was about as nice as I'd come to be accustom to with Heineken and their stuff. Skylight One Hanson has high ceilings, maybe over 70 feet high. It looks like an antique building and kind of resembles a train station (a la Atlantic Terminal, which is across the street). There was free Heineken all over the place, as well as free hotdogs, but that was the only free food they had on hand. There was also a downstairs lounge are with couches and you could order Heineken by the bucket, and watch the Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks on one of the many HD TVs. I cannot tell a lie, the set up was amazing. On to the performances...

The early warm-up DJ was DJ Mano, who I'm told is Kanye's new DJ. He was warming things up with the hip-hop tracks getting people into the party mood. It probably would have been more fun had their been less suits and more actual hip-hop fans in attendance, but it happens. After him the artist known as Q-Tip took the stage, for a DJ set! Q-Tip isn't as good a mixer as Mano, but he of course played a whole lot of older tracks that people hadn't heard in a while. Both DJ sets were good, but nothing to write home about.

After Q-Tip finished up, the host for the evening came out to introduce the man of the night. The host being Aziz Ansari of course, who I always run into nowadays at events or just in the street! He came out and announced everyone who was in attendance, and that we should prepare for some GOOD Music. Out of some serious smoke and lights came the headliner, Kanye West! I was rather surprised because I was expecting there to be some opening acts, but they set it up so everyone got a chance to rock through out the night. It is now I think I should touch on something else that made me angry about this show. The space like I said before was quite large, and looked even larger because of the ridiculously high ceilings. The unfortunate thing with ceilings this high is that it can create acoustic problems if the speakers aren't up to par, and for the microphones, they weren't. In fact, I can't think of a show I've been to in my life, with worse sounding microphones than this show last night! Seriously! I could barely hear anything anyone was saying. It was pure echo, and not the good kind, like screaming down a long hallway with a beat behind it. Honestly if it wasn't for the recognizable beats no one would be able to decipher what song was being performed by the artists on stage. It upset me because I thought, did they even do a sound check, at all? They went to so much trouble for everything associated with the show and spent so much time on not letting fans in that they forgot to pick a venue with better sound?! Man, that really made me angry. Despite the best efforts of Heineken though, Kanye West cannot be denied...

He came out and opened with a little ditty called "Dark Fantasy," and from there he was off and running. The hit-maker did "Power" then "Jesus Walks," and then introduced Pusha T! Pusha came out and rocked it a bit, doing "My God" and "Grinding," but despite the fact that his perfomance was filled with energy like the one I saw of him the day before (FlashFWD II), the crowd I guess weren't as into it as we were on Wednesday. I chalk this up to the lack of hip-hop fans in the house. Pusha made his exit and out came Cyhi Da Prynce. He did a couple tracks before he was joined by Kanye and Pusha T and they did "So Appalled."

They exited after to give Mr. Hudson some room to do his thing. He did a couple songs before finishing with "Forever Young," which made people in the crowd think that maybe Jay-Z would come out and help him finish up? It was not to be. Big Sean was the next GOOD Music artists to bumrush the stage. He's probably besides Pusha T my favorite of Kanye's signings. Also it's great his name is Big Sean when he happens to be maybe 5'5 and like 120 pounds soaking wet! Either way he did a couple tracks as well, and finishing up with his big song "My Last," which features Chris Brown (who I hate, so I'm glad he wasn't there).

The last guest artist to make it out was my boy Kid Cudi! He came out to a raucous response from the crowd and jammed out with "Pursuit of Happiness" and a couple other solo tracks before bringing back Yeezy, for a couple of duets: "Erase Me" and their smash hit "I Poke Her Face." From there however, Kanye took over the reigns and let the hits fly. He dropped "All Of The Lights" and "Flashing Lights," which was rather fitting because the lights at this show were so fitting that he really needed to drop any songs he had left in the bag about lights! He did some 'classics' like "All Falls Down," and even went into "Through The Wire," his first big single.

He reminded everyone to be wary of the "Gold Digger," and reminded us that he was indeed living the "Good Life." He didn't drop any songs that I remember off of the 808s & Heartbreak album, but I didn't really miss it, that was my least favorite album of his. He made his exit only to return for a quick curtain call, playing what looked like an MPC Sampler and putting together a performance of "Runaway," his self-loathing and self-praising track that marked his triumphant return to hip-hop so many months ago. To help him finish up Pusha T returned to do his verse in the song, and the GOOD Music night of terrible acoustics was over.

Honestly, despite the bureaucratic set up to get tickets, and the horrible, horrible sound coming from the mics, the show was still great. Kanye is an awesome performer, and even though he didn't sound good there were moments where you didn't care at all. He's a repeated hit maker with a lot of great talent in tow, and with a bunch of GOOD Music shows already booked for this summer (with Heineken no less), I don't think this is the last time we'll be seeing Mr. West in the building. But hopefully it's the last time we see him in THIS building...

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