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Why are people still going to Kanye West shows? We asked San Francisco fans

A man and woman pose together at night, with city buildings and passersby in the background. They are dressed in trendy, night-out attire.
Teresa Gee and her boyfriend, who gave only his first name, Alex, seized on the rare opportunity to see Kanye West in San Francisco. They didn’t call themselves die hard fans but said they came for the experience. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

To some people, Kanye West spouts racist rhetoric all too often and is clearly battling mental health issues while aligning himself with America’s far right. To others, he’s an icon, a legendary recording artist, rapper and fashion designer—a visionary.

There are more people in San Francisco in the latter category than you might think. The artist legally known as Ye came to Chase Center on Tuesday to put on an “album listening experience," marking his first show in the region since before the pandemic, and thousands of people showed up—each paying $100 or more.

The show was not quite a sellout, but flocks of dripped-out faithful fans came to see Ye in the wake of a wild few years of him cozying up to Donald Trump, spewing antisemitic hate speech, losing a deal with Adidas and ending his marriage to Kim Kardashian.

Though he didn’t touch a microphone until about an hour into the show—denounced as a “fake concert” in SFGATE—Ye demonstrated his vast influence on pop culture even in a liberal bastion like San Francisco. 

Tweens sporting his merch screamed along to every word of his new album Vultures as they posted the show to Snapchat and Instagram. After Ye's 10-year-old daughter, North West, opened the show with a dance act, Ye and co-artist Ty Dolla $ign danced around the Chase Center floor as their record played and a DJ rapidly cut in and out of songs, encouraging the crowd to recite the lyrics. 

A concert arena filled with a large crowd, lit by stage lights, before or after a performance.
The artist formerly known as Kanye West didn't quite sell out the crowd, but those who showed up did so in force. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

“One in the pink, and one in the stink,” a group of high schoolers screamed to the beat of the song "Everybody" from the nosebleeds

Many diehard fans said they cling to strong feelings for the artist they once knew, which was evident when Ye played some of his earliest hits from Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy toward the end of the show, eliciting the crowd’s loudest cheers. 

‘He can stand there and bob his head all he wants’

Some treated the event as if it were a fashion show, with most in attendance rocking all-black outfits. Others said they hardly considered themselves fans and only attended to soak in the culture.

“I want his kids to be there, and I want his wife to be there,” 31-year-old Teresa Gee, a Burlingame resident, said before the show of his new spouse, Bianca Censori. “He can stand there and bob his head all he wants. I don't care.”

A person stands confidently on artificial turf at dusk, with a patterned building and a restaurant behind them.
Aspiring runway model Sean Dokes said Ye has inspired his fashion. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

Aspiring runway model Sean Dokes, who was wearing Bottega shades and Balenciaga shoes, said he’s not a fan of West’s music but loves his clothing.

“I love him for his fashion, and that's about it,” Dokes said. “How he acts, I try not to consume that because it's bad for the mental.”

‘I just don’t agree with everything he says’

Some of those who still love Kanye like Kanye loves Kanye were guarded about sharing their admiration for the artist publicly. 

“What’s this story really about?” a man who would only give the name Chris asked skeptically when a reporter from The Standard approached. 

Chris and his friend Tay said they still carry love for Ye because his songs inspired them during their younger years. They also fondly recalled when, during a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims on live television in 2005, West said, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”

“We both know he’s still living a Black experience in America,” Tay said. 

The Bush incident was controversial at the time but furthered West’s reputation as an advocate for African Americans. That contrasts with what the American Jewish Committee calls his blatant antisemitism, like West’s X posts of the image of a swastika fused with a Star of David.

“I love Kanye West, and love conquers all,” Chris said. “I just don’t agree with everything he says.”

Two stylish individuals posing at a night event, one in a fur coat, the other in a denim jacket and camo pants.
Aspiring artists Apollo Aura and Mackk Archive said the performance inspired them. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

For those who came for the music, the “fake” show didn’t disappoint. Apollo Aura, who attended the event wearing all-black contact lenses, a spiked choker and a fur coat, said he was most inspired when the song “Runaway” played

“As soon as it played, if you paid attention to his face, he realized what he worked hard for and what he’s done,” Aura said. “For me, it was inspirational.” 

Aura’s friend, who identified himself as Mackk Archive, noted that Ye let the music speak for itself, uttering just a few sentences throughout the two-hour performance. He said he couldn’t imagine his life without him.

“He’s a symbol for younger African Americans,” said Archive, who was wearing his own clothing brand. “I literally dreamt of being here.”

David Sjostedt can be reached at