The crowd went wild when Jamie Foxx walked on stage wearing old, Ray Charles-type shades late in Kanye West's concert Saturday at the Gibson Amphitheatre -- and why not?
Beyond the actor-singer's celebrity, his presence signaled that "Gold Digger," a single so infectious it just spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the pop chart, was next on the program.
The dance-crazy tale of money-grabbing women is filled with classic elements, including Foxx's gritty snippet of Charles' R&B gem "I Got a Woman" and a rhyme that you can't help but sing along to even though it employs the forbidden N-word at the end: "I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger / But she ain't messin' with no broke ..."
Delighting in the way the rhyme defies political correctness, rapper West paused playfully at one point in the song Saturday to tell whites in the racially mixed audience that it was OK -- this one time -- to shout out the N-word.
Most of the whites had appeared to be rapping along, but a bit tentatively. After West's comment, the volume jumped several decibels.
The remarkable thing about the concert -- which also featured such surprise guests as Patti LaBelle and Maroon5 leader Adam Levine -- was that the emotional power of the "Gold Digger" sequence was matched at several other points, including the spiritually minded "Jesus Walks" and the tender "Roses."
When I first saw the "Touch the Sky" tour in mid-October in Coral Gables, Fla., I noted that West merged challenging and entertaining musical elements so spectacularly that the show clearly had the potential to be one of the most celebrated hip-hop tours ever -- alongside the tours of the early Public Enemy, N.W.A, Eminem and Lauryn Hill.
Even discounting the special guests, there seemed little question Saturday that the tour now stands above them all. From the classy lighting and staging to imaginative musical design (balancing a turntable and six-piece string section) to his own energy as a performer, West has created a new standard for the genre. Musically, this tour does touch the sky.
Where: UC Irvine Bren Events Center
When: 7:30 tonight
Contact: (949) 824-5000