Kanye West, Koko, review: Surprise gig performed with confidence and glee

The only thing missing was one of West’s legendary on-stage rants

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Kanye West shook Camden’s Koko to its foundations last night, with a performance that exemplified everything that makes the superstar rapper iconic.

Rumours rippled through the 2000-strong crowd who’d snapped up tickets for the surprise show hours earlier; would he announce the release of new album So Help Me God? Would he play it in full? Would Paul McCartney make a surprise appearance? The answers: No, No and No, as it was probably way past his bedtime. (Kanye was two hours late - not hitting the stage until 1am).

What they got was more memorable. Building on the Brits performance of "All Day", Kanye threw the spotlight onto his award-show stage companions, English grime collective Boy Better Know. There was no Brits-style flamethrower at Koko, but the show was pure fire.

Inverting the Brits performance, the group opened with Skepta’s "That’s Not Me", with Kanye on-stage but taking a backseat, nodding, grinning and moving to bass so loud it vibrated the stage screen, digitally projecting archaic religious imagery of saints, martyrs and Jesus Christ himself.

The Christ image took centre stage after Kanye launched into "Jesus Walks"… suddenly stopping the music when he realised the right picture wasn’t on display. Turning to face the wall, he forced the tech team to flick through images until they hit the right one, like some sort of ancient Tinder, barking ‘Next, next, next, next’ until he hit a match with a crucified Christ, before taking the tune from the top.

It was a moment indicative of Kanye’s mood – he ran the show like a conductor, signaling to stop the music so his crew could hear the jubilant crowd sing every word back to him one minute, parting the audience down the middle like Moses the next.

The crowd only got one brand-new song – absolute banger "U Mad" – but with a show that cycled through huge hits including "Power", "All Of The Lights", and "Black Skinhead", finding time for a climatic surprise appearance by Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon performing "C.R.E.A.M" and a unexpected cover of rival Drake’s "All Me", no-one was complaining.

The only thing missing was one of West’s legendary on-stage rants, but this wasn’t the night for that. With a near-constant smile on his face, Kanye seemed to take genuine pleasure in using his celebrity to raise up talented youngsters, weaving multiple contributions from his cohorts into his hits.

It was a confident and gleeful performance, promoting an album that doesn’t even have a release date yet. I’ve got a feeling this won’t be the last surprise before it lands.

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