15 Of Kanye’s Best Live Performances
You might’ve forgotten just how hard Kanye kills it live
Kanye West is one of the most popular entertainers in the world. He’s also a fashion designer, producer, entrepreneur, video game designer, and the list goes on (in fact, we at FirstSlice talked about why this year will be more legendary for him than ever).
Despite all the projects he’s involved in, Kanye is a performer first and foremost. He puts a ridiculous amount of effort into his live setpieces, and he almost always takes time in a live performance to speak to the audiences.
We’ve looked through as many Kanye live sets as we could find online (and had a great time doing it) to bring you, in no particular order and solely in this writer’s opinion, 20 of the most energetic/emotional/powerful sets of Kanye’s that we’ve watched.
2015 – BRIT Awards – All Day
Currently the video that autoplays when you head to Kanye’s official website, Kanye is surrounded by some of the UK’s hottest MC’s and a couple of flamethrowers, as he belts one of the tracks off of the upcoming So Help Me God.
2010 – VH1 Storytellers – Amazing
Kanye, backed by a small orchestra, and alone on a light up stage, delivers a blistering version of Amazing. He then goes in to some of what’s he’s been feeling in 2010. If the first few minutes of this video don’t get you pumped, nothing will.
2010 – MTV VMA’s – Runaway
This was back when Kanye was still teasing My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy and Runaway was the second track people had heard. Red suit, black/white stage, and the debut of Kanye using ballerinas. He plays keys and mixes live on a drum machine on top of that. Pure legend status.
2005 – Abbey Road Studios – Touch the Sky
This is from Late Orchestration, a full performance of Late Registration backed by a full orchestra in the same place where the Beatles recorded their legendary albums. It’s a must listen.
2011 – Coachella – Full Set
I was physically here for the this, in the middle of a many thousand person audience. Kanye literally rose up from the middle of the crowd on a crane as Higher played, and the lyrics “Can we get much higher?!” boomed over the speakers. It blew my mind. The rest of this set was filled with beautifully choreographed dancing, setpieces, and a very energetic performance from Kanye.
2011 – MTV VMA’s – Otis
Kanye and Jay-Z flow hard as they take down Otis off of Watch the Throne. Running down an illuminated runway, silhouetted by fireworks and flames, that’s how all music should be experienced. Yeah, even classical.
2012 – BET Awards – Mercy/Too Cold
Kanye brings out Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz on a stage backed by a gigantic, shimmering Lamborghini. Talk about “Lamborghini Mercy”!
2015 – SNL 40th Anniversary – Jesus Walks/Only One/Wolves
Pretty much impossible to find online, but we did it (link above). Kanye went through this mixed medley of a classic hit followed by two bangers, the last of which will hopefully be one his new album. In a claustrophobic white background, you can’t help but be struck by the lyrics and contrast between these songs.
2004 – Dave Chappelle’s Block Party – Jesus Walks
Rolling Stone wrote a few years back that Kanye “stole the show” with this incredible performance of Jesus Walks for Dave Chappelle’s concert movie. Backed by a marching band and all kinds of musicians, Kanye goes hard like only he can.
2015 – Coachella – Can’t Tell Me Nothing/Black Skinhead/All Day
Given how much I loved Kanye’s 2011 set at Coachella, like I said above, you can bet I felt very bad that I missed out on this surprise performance during The Weeknd’s set. In fact, I wrote about it previously for FirstSlice. Now I’m just waiting on Kanye to do a surprise set maybe at a local coffee shop I go to?
2010 – Isle of Wight Festival – Run This Town
Ok, this is technically a Jay-Z song. That said, this list wouldn’t be complete without seeing how crazy a massive, 10’s of thousands strong crowd goes when Kanye shows up on stage.
2005 – MTV VMA’s – Gold Digger
Early Kanye: sure it was less of a production, but it is a sight to witness just Kanye and his insane flow, backed by Ray himself.
2007 – Jimmy Kimmel Live – Stronger
Again backed by a small orchestra, and a cadre of operatic back-up singers, Kanye brings the heat to pump the average late night TV performance. This was a set everyone was talking about back in the day.
2011 – NBA All-Star Halftime Show – All of the Lights
With Rihanna backing him up, Kanye tears up the stage and delivers a very memorable performance. Live trumpets and what seems like literally all of the lights and colors support him from behind.
2012 – Paris Show – N***as In Paris 11 TIMES
If you went to an ordinary show, and the artist played a song twice, you’d be a little confused. A few more times, and you’re out of there. You need to see just how HYPED this crowd is after hearing the same song 10 TIMES. 47 minutes in, they’re still pumped as hell.
Truly a testament to Kanye’s live work.
Did we miss your favorite Kanye live performance? Tell us in the comments!