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Kanye West’s Hitler Rant, Tears for Amy, Plant Shines: Review

Kanye West
Kanye West performs at the Big Chill, U.K., on Aug. 6, 2010. The U.S. rapper started 30 minutes late and was booed when he launched into a speech saying that people looked at him as if he was Hitler. Photograph: Mark Beech, Bloomberg News.

Kanye West stirred up the crowd at the Big Chill festival in the U.K. with a rant about Hitler.

“I walk down the street, and people look at me like I’m insane, like I’m Hitler,” the 34-year-old U.S. rapper told the audience at the four-day weekend event in Herefordshire. His complaints that he was misunderstood were met with boos.

Robert Plant, meanwhile, moved further from his Led Zeppelin days, and the specter of Amy Winehouse loomed. West, Jessie J and Neneh Cherry paid tribute to the singer. Dionne Broomfield wept at the end of her soulful set as she dedicated her final song, “Love Is a Losing Game,” to Winehouse, her godmother and manager, who died on July 23.

West said he was 30 minutes late starting his “most important gig of the summer” because “I only have half my voice” and wanted the show to be perfect. U.K. newspaper the Sun reported that he had a heated backstage argument.

In a 10-minute diatribe, the singer also said that most of those people who criticized his video “Monster” hadn’t even seen it. The film includes scenes of cannibalism and lingerie-clad models hanging from chains.

“Women’s groups started saying that a person that lost the most important woman in his life is now against women in some way,” he said, referring to the death of his mother.

West’s machine-gun raps during a two-hour show needed subtitles. He ran around the stage in an over-expensive production featuring 20 ballerinas as his rapper’s ego grew even more bombastic than the fireworks and lasers.

Led Zep Hits

By contrast, Plant played the last gig of his Band of Joy’s 13-month tour dressed down in jeans and with minimal fuss. His set was immaculate, mixing Zeppelin classics such as “Black Dog” with newer songs like “Angel Dance.”

The Big Chill has long won recognition for its laid-back atmosphere and cutting-edge acts -- a reputation much bigger than its size. The audience is only a fifth of the 200,000 who mass at Glastonbury, Fuji Rock and Coachella. It started in 1994, featuring mainly ambient music and has slowly been moving toward a more mainstream approach.

This year’s other headliners included Chemical Brothers, with a nonstop barrage of dance music, and frenetic guitar playing from Mexico’s Rodrigo y Gabriela -- anything but ambient.

While Plant made jokes about “no reggae” during his set, there was plenty to be heard from Steel Pulse and veteran Horace Andy. He reprised one of his earliest songs, “Money Is the Root of All Evil,” wearing one of the most alarmingly loud scarlet outfits seen onstage since maybe 1970.

Janelle Monae ordered the crowd to get down at the finale of her spectacular sci-fi show, at which point a torrential rainstorm broke out. “I made that happen,” she joked.

The joy is finding new talent, and those exploring here would have found Sneaky, a virtuoso on the electric double bass. Smoove and Turrell, a good-time band from Newcastle, northern England, can be relied on to fire up any party.

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(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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