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by Jimmi Hemmenbach, associate Sports editor

On April 9, West made a quick visit to Hawai‘i with his Touch the Sky Tour and his praised new album Late Registration, which reached the No. 1 in late 2005. Expectations were high among the crowd that gathered in the Neil Blaisdell Arena, which was surprisingly not sold out. And West didn’t let anyone down.

West was accompanied by a seven-piece, all-female string section of cellists and violinists, a couple of back-up singers, and the spectacular DJ A-Trak on the turntables. The assembly of string instruments seemed small, but was a strong attribute to the show, not least because of the string section leader who played the violin to the hip-hop beat with more energy than ever seen before.

West entered the stage as confident as he claims himself to be. He started off the show with “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and received a good response from the crowd. But West wanted more, and his body language—he just stood there, arms folded, waiting—demanded it.

When the audience produced, West then gave them brilliantly performed and energy-filled “Addiction,” “Heard ‘em Say,” “Through the Wire,” “Slow Jamz,” and a medley of old rap songs.
Finished with these, West said: “The show is just about to start.” And he made it happen.
At the introduction of “All Falls Down,” the audience was out of their seats and trying to touch the sky; the sound level reached heights it hadn’t come near to earlier in the evening.

The transition to the next song started with a sample from the old Ray Charles song “I Got a Woman,” and that led into West’s greatest hit, “Gold Digger,” to the delight of the ecstatic audience.
When we thought it was impossible to top these two numbers, West again gave us pieces of some old songs that had inspired him, some of them quite unexpected. He started off, accompanied by the two background singers, with Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together” and then sampled Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and the Norwegian group A-ha’s “Take On Me,” while performing an ‘80s dance that reminded us of Carlton Banks in Fresh Prince in Bel-Air.

The finale of the show was dramatic and energetic. Starting with the well-known sound of “Jesus Walks,” used in the recent war movie Jarhead, West enthralled the crowd, moving them to the beat.

The horn passages of “Touch the Sky” completed the show and an hour and 45 minutes of one of the best rap performances to come to Honolulu in recent times.


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