When former Secretary of State Colin Powell visited last Wednesday for the Distinguished Speakers Series, the only security present was a couple of police officers. When rapper Kanye West performed at Fall Fest Friday night, there were metal detectors and a bevy of guards.
At least the coordinators had their priorities straight.
Relative to the opening acts, Kanye West seemed like the king of hip-hop. Maybe that was the whole idea.
Before West took the stage, only the performers' shadows could be seen through the curtains, as the ecstatic crowd chanted "Kanye! Kanye!"
The veil dropped to reveal the accompanying musicians in private cubicles with translucent screens where videos and colored lights created silhouettes. An impressive string section of two cellos and four violins created a grandiose orchestral style that set the tone for a sort of rap opera.
Rather than just muddling through a set, West was vibrant with theatrical renovations to his songs.
While lying on a bed onstage, West narrated his daily grind during "Spaceship." When he hit his alarm clock, the beat changed to classic hip-hop songs, and then flowed into "Get 'Em High."
In a tribute to his grandmother, West knelt next to a hospital bed and questioned why his grandmother gets denied because she is just a secretary at the local church while an NBA player gets surgery immediately.
While some hip-hop artists rely on a computer program for beats, West employed musical ingenuity and instrumental diversity. He even donned a UB tee shirt during the hit "All Falls Down" and invited the audience to sing along.
"To all my white people, this is the only chance you'll get to say ni****. So join in!" West said during the song "Gold Digger."
West strutted and danced his way across the stage like a pro-loose and relaxed but disciplined and precise. Golden confetti and a disco globe during "Diamonds Are Forever" added dazzling effects to the already visually stunning show.
However, some found West's long set list to drag on for too long. It would have been shorter, but rapper Common dropped from the Touch the Sky Tour two weeks ago.
"(West) put on a really good show but I thought it dragged a little bit. The songs were a little bit self-indulgent," said junior biomedical science major Ben Cassidy. "However, I haven't seen a better performance at a Fall Fest. Even if you don't like his music, it was still something to see."
West started his career by composing beats and producing tracks for Jay-Z, utilizing a variety of instruments, not just synthetic riffs. Sweeping strings, bongo drums and keys created an intense, orchestral sound.
West's onstage charm and unforgettable musical performance stood out like a diamond in the rough amongst his less-experienced peers.
Keyshia Cole, who opened the show, is the 500th Beyonce imitator to appear in the R&B spotlight this month. She came out sporting thigh-high leather boots and the obligatory bling.
Her backup singers did not appear to have microphones, but were focused on attempting an un-choreographed bar room grinding routine that was featured in every song. Cole's hypocritical lyrics involve ex-boyfriends and how she detests them, yet can't live without them.
The second blunder to defile the stage was Fantasia, winner of the third and worst installment of "American Idol." A Green County fifth-grade recorder concert would have been more satisfying than watching Fantasia and her phony cohorts' cacophonic musical product.
Fantasia spastically toddled to and fro, constantly wiping sweat off her forehead with a towel. She had energy and a respectable quality, but so do lawn mowers and they sound much more soothing.
The guitars and keyboards were inaudible and were held mostly for effect. As with most concerts, the bass and drums overpowered everything else. It's amazing that coordinators of these events do not tweak the sound levels for a better quality, but in this case, the distortion was a godsend.
Mike Schmitz, a sophomore media major, took away something different from Fantasia's performance.
"Her voice is very powerful, very nuanced and unique," he said. "I didn't find her boring like Kanye. His performance was too long, albeit very enjoyable."
She didn't fully butcher a cover of Aerosmith's "Dream On," but it may only seem that way since the song was a gem in a dung heap.
They say you have to go through hell to get to heaven, and West's performance was well worth the misery of the opening acts.