Air Canada Centre, Toronto - Nov. 9, 2005

JANE STEVENSON - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

TORONTO - Superstar producer-turned-rapper Kanye West brought his Touch The Sky tour to the Air Canada Centre last night.

And while it wasn't as consistently smooth or uplifting as the song of the same name from his No. 1 sophomore album, Late Registration, the 28-year-old West definitely puts major effort into his live show.

Making a stylish entrance after snippets of soul legend Curtis Mayfield's Move On Up heralded the first song, Touch The Sky, West was a regular GQ cover boy decked out in pale pink pants and shirt, and pale grey blazer and white rimmed sunglasses.

But his formal attire gave no hints of the energetic 90-minute performance to come.

West was more of an athlete than a catwalk model, seldom standing still in one place for very long, as he rapped energetically from one end of the stage to the other on songs from both his multi-platinum albums, Late Registration and last year's The College Dropout.

He also proved to be a skillful comedian.

Backed by a band that included a string section, turntablist and two backup singers, he playfully added snippets of such hits songs as Queen's We Will Rock You and Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams as bridges between tunes.

By the fifth song, Drive Slow, which saw him joined by rapper GLC, West had even changed out of his expensive suit and gotten into a tiny bed to take part in a skit that featured him getting ready for work

As a clock radio alarm played songs like Aha's Take On Me and Prince's When Doves Cry, West gamely danced around the stage '80s-style in red polo shirt, jeans and sneakers to the crowd's delight.

The audience numbered about 6,000 with the hanger sectioned off into about a third of its usual capacity.

Those that were there seemingly couldn't get enough of such College Dropout songs as We Don't Care, Spaceship, Get 'Em High and All Falls Down, or the Late Registration tracks Heard 'Em Say and Hey Mama, as they jumped to their feet while singing, clapping and dancing along.

The real hysteria, however, was reserved for West's current No. 1 hit Gold Digger, which samples Ray Charles, and previous anthems Jesus Walks -- reborn again on the trailer for the Gulf War movie Jarhead -- and Diamonds From Sierra Leone, which samples the Shirley Bassey classic Diamonds Are Forever.

Still, despite the grandness of his production on albums, West proved to be disarmingly sentimental at times in concert.

During Roses, a song he wrote about his grandmother being in the hospital, he kneeled in front of an empty hospital bed while both a starry night and a curtain of roses were projected onto a screen behind him.

Opening for West last night was third season American Idol winner Fantasia and newcomer Keyshia Cole.

Sadly, respected hip-hop star Common -- whose latest album was produced by West -- had to bow out of the tour just days before it started in mid-October after getting a film role in Smoking Aces, co-starring Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck and Alicia Keys.

Fantasia -- decked out in a questionable outfit of white shirt, black shorts and thigh-high black leather boots -- really let it rip vocally on her covers of Prince's Purple Rain and Aerosmith's Dream On, along with her own hit, Baby Mama.


Photos