Kanye West at Global Gathering 2008 – live review

Kanye West

We wanted meteor showers and spaceships, but not even Estelle turned up to Kanye's vanity fair. Global Gathering, Long Marston Airfield, Stratford-Upon-Avon (July 25)

The sign above the stage says Global Gathering, but the shutter shades and diamond hand signs, not to mention the SWAT team of security guards patrolling the backstage compound, tell a different story: this is Kanyefest. All the other acts on Friday night’s main stage have been scratched to make way for the UK touchdown of Kanye’s Glow In The Dark spectacle – the fact that the annual dance festival’s organisers have bowed to this hubristic request proves they’re hoping Kanye can do for Global Gathering what Jay-Z did for Glastonbury. But if they expected him to come out all glowsticks blazing to meet the ravers halfway, they’re mistaken. We’re teased with a snippet of ‘Stronger’, but after appearing in a puff of smoke, Kanye opts to regale us with ‘I Wonder’ and ‘Heard ’Em Say’.

Twirling around with arms raised skyward, he presents himself as a classic soulman rather than a zeitgeist-rogering rapper. His band’s ultra-slick synthesis of live music and samples is often dazzling. ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Good Life’ prompt mass singalongs, but we’re beginning to wonder if Kanye hasn’t lost half of his kit coming through Terminal 5. In America, the Glow In The Dark shows have featured simulated meteor showers, lunar landscapes, gold-painted chorus girls and a sentient spaceship motherboard called Jane. Tonight, Kanye is dressed sensibly and his band are all in black, with the one concession to sci-fi being welding masks for the boys and shoulderpads for the girls that look like they’re made out of black polystyrene. The light show is decent, but it’s not Daft Punk’s glowing pyramid; there’s nothing that justifies scrapping the afternoon’s programme.

Meanwhile, Kanye barely speaks to the crowd between songs and gives no indication that he actually knows where he is, geographically or culturally. When he finally unleashes ‘Stronger’, those at the fringes of the throng have already drifted away to seek something harder, better and faster in the tents. Jay-Z has proved that hip-hop can conquer these big fields and tonight his former charge provides strong supplementary evidence – even if, on this particular occasion, he does fall a few furlongs short of pretty fucking awesome.

Sam Richards