Kanye West’s headlining set at Bonnaroo this year was proceeded by some weighty expectations — the least of which being that he would show up late, as when the rapper headlined the festival back in 2008 he infamously didn’t take the stage until after 4:30 a.m. and only stayed for half an hour before storming off in frustration. That resulted in frustrated festival-goers spray painting “fuck Kanye” on Bonnaroo’s wooden fences and general, understandable frustration from those who’d waited all day and all night to see one of the most acclaimed musicians of the last decade.
Flash forward to 2014, a year after the release of the Rick Rubin-produced Yeezus, which topped a litany of ‘best of 2013′ lists and has been hailed by many as Kanye’s best record yet. Yeezy was invited to play Bonnaroo again. Whether the invitation was a chance for him to redeem himself to the crowd at the summer festival that vies with Coachella for the title of ‘Best in America’ or an acknowledgement on the part of the event’s organizers that Kanye is the act to book of the year regardless of his behavior the last time, it depends on your point of view. Unfortunately, though he appeared onstage right on time Friday night, Kanye’s set was not exactly well-received by the Bonnaroovians, who again had painted “fuck Kanye” all over the fences by the time the weekend was over.
Kanye’s performance was great — when he was rapping. He played cuts from Yeezus including “New Slave,” “Bound 2,” and closed with the breathtaking “Blood on the Leaves,” and played some hits like “Stronger” and “Turn Out the Lights.” But between songs the rapper would launch into bizarre, long rants that left audience members frustrated; and leaving the What Stage in droves even though as per usual for the festival’s headliners no other performances were scheduled during his set.