The Kanye West show was billed as one of the biggest concerts booked for the new Golden 1 Center. But not long after the music began Saturday night, streets and sidewalks near the arena erupted with chants and cussing aimed at the hip-hop megastar.
After just two songs and 30 minutes – about half that time spent on a stream-of-consciousness rant against everything from MTV to Hillary Clinton – the hip-hop star abruptly pulled the plug.
“Press, get ready to write your passive-aggressive, LeBron James racist comments … get ready, get ready, ’cause the show’s over!” West said, dropping the microphone and running off the stage.
The sudden end to the highly anticipated show sparked outrage that spilled into Sunday brunch throughout Sacramento. Fans who paid as much as $250 a ticket woke up wondering if they’d get a refund – they will – and lamenting that they lost their chance to see a big-name entertainer perform his full set in their city. Many were confused and couldn’t quite figure out what West’s message was.
“You almost feel like you got sucker punched by somebody and he ran away because you couldn’t do anything,” said Matt Rueling, who drove from Truckee to see the show and was sitting Sunday outside Sacramento’s Bacon and Butter waiting for a table. “It’s not really going to change how I feel about his music, but I would never pay to go to another Kanye show. I wouldn’t even go if it was free.”
During West’s abbreviated set on Saturday night, he performed two songs (“Famous” and “Father Stretch My Hands”) as large mosh pits swirled around the floor. The staging was some of the most inventive seen on the current concert circuit, with West rapping on a large platform that hovered over the main floor. As the platform moved back and forth, the crowd followed like a giant scrum and generated a wild, slam-dancing energy that’s usually reserved for heavy metal or punk gigs.
But all that momentum was silenced once the music stopped after about 15 minutes and West turned his floating stage into a kind of soap box. His myriad targets included corporate radio, Google and Facebook (“Facebook lied to you!” he said to the crowd), a fellow hip-hop star (“Jay Z, call me … talk to me like a man!”) and claimed Beyonce leveraged MTV so she would win video of the year at the 2016 Video Music Awards.
West said early into his speech, “I’m on my Trump s--- tonight …Yeah, I’m taking his lead. I’m-a just say how I say.” By that, he apparently meant he was going to speak his mind.
He took a couple of digs at Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “This Saint Pablo tour is the most relevant (thing) happening,” West boasted. “If your old ass keeps following old models, you’ll be Hillary Clinton.”
“It’s a new world, Hillary Clinton,” he also said. “It’s a new world. Feelings matter. Because guess what? Everybody in middle America felt a way and they showed you how they felt … It’s a new world, Barack. It’s a new world, Jay Z.”
The news went viral as music fans across the country watched West’s diatribe on videos captured by cellphones. Rapper Snoop Dogg responded with his own online video, saying West was crazy and that he “picked the wrong night” for his tirade. Several Sacramento Kings players at Golden 1 Center on their off-night expressed equal parts shock, frustration and wonder at West’s speech and how he left after half an hour.
Kings forward Anthony Tolliver posted, “This dude Kanye just stole money from 22k fans in 25 mins!” Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said West “robbed us blind smh,” shorthand for shaking my head. Matt Barnes seemed to be among the few supporters, using a hand clap emoji after expressing his amazement.
Once the house lights went up, Golden 1 Center filled with choruses of boos and confused looks. Outside the arena, many fans were visibly upset, especially after plunking down so much money on tickets.
“I spent $250,” said a disappointed Christian Krebs of Sacramento. “I might be a fan of his music, but I’m not a fan of his character.”
Sacramento resident Laura Ting said she was concerned that riots might break out. Sacramento Police Department spokesman Matthew McPhail said there were no crime reports from the arena Saturday night.
“Everyone was just in utter disbelief,” Ting said. “We thought he was joking and he was just going to come back out and it was like a stunt. And then when the lights started coming back on, everyone was just pissed.”
By Sunday afternoon, fans learned that they will receive automatic refunds from Ticketmaster within the next week.
The Sacramento stop on West’s Saint Pablo Tour, which was attended by more than 13,000, was scheduled to start at 9 p.m. and didn’t include an opening act. West didn’t take the stage until nearly 10:30 p.m., a time at which the crowd grew restless and in some cases droopy eyed.
The performance capped a wild few days for West, who was booed at his Nov. 17 show in San Jose after saying that he didn’t vote, but if he did, he would’ve voted for Trump.
West’s long been known as one of popular music’s most polarizing artists. He’s scored such hits as “Gold Digger,” “Stronger” and “Jesus Walks,” and renown for a production touch that’s pushed the sonic boundaries of hip-hop music, especially in his use of layering vocal samples. West’s also infamous for an ego as enormous as the bass that rattled around Golden 1 Center, in the past comparing himself to Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Pablo Picasso.
Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, a restaurant near Golden 1 Center, even poked fun at West with its Saturday menu. A $35 “Yeezy” pizza with mortadella and mac ’n’ cheese was offered as a nightly special, and described as “cheesy, full of baloney and over priced … just like Kanye.”
Sunday afternoon, West canceled a makeup show at The Forum in Los Angeles three hours before that concert was supposed to start. There was no immediate explanation for the cancellation.