Wow. There's a lot to say. But let's start with this: It was really, really good. It was a show in a way that hip hop performances rarely are. Kanye came out in a cloud of smoke and (appropriately enough) flashing lights. The light show really was quite impressive. I'm try to think of a rock equivalent to the show and the best I can come up with is U2's Zoo TV tour, a comparison I've heard mentioned quite a bit in the rock press. It's an appropriate comparison to a point, although Kanye's show is not nearly as "meta" a show as Zoo Tv was.
But, in terms of catching an artist at the top of his game, in a show that showcases what's best about the artist, it's similar. U2 were the most interesting and popular act in pop music when they did that tour and Kanye West is at an analogous point in his career now. He's certainly got the hits to prove it and he rolled them out tonight: Golddigger, Touch the Sky, Through the Wire, Champion, Flashing Lights, Stronger, Diamonds are Forever, Jesus Walks—and those are just the songs I'm remembering.
Also, like Bono, Kanye is a first rate showman with a flare for the dramatic, and a bona fide messianic complex to boot. I'm sure Kanye and his messianic complex are tough to take in real life, but on a festival stage, with thousands of kids waiting to-throw-their-hands-in-the-air-and-wave-them-like-they-just-don't-care, it works.
There were a couple lulls in the show. There was an extented monologue during Flashing Lights where he bemoaned his loss of anonimity and another later in the set where he waxed poetic about the changes in the music business. (Did you know the Internet is changing the way people receive music?!) For the most part though, he was on point, dropping shout-outs to Obama, Maryland (home of the Terrapins), and Baltimore's infamous flashing blue lights. He even expressed admiration for Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails who were headlining the other stage concurrently. "It's not about black versus white, rock versus rap anymore," he said. "It's just about good music versus bad music." Amen, Kanye.