You can't spit on the host and then show up with your B game. Kanye West knows this, which is why his pair of performances on this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" were among the most arresting in the show's 30-plus year history. You might recall that West took a hard shot at the long-running late night staple on his single "Power," unfavorably name-checking the sketch comedy show with the line "F--- 'SNL' and the whole cast. Tell 'em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass."
But when he showed up to perform the song on Saturday (October 2), Kanye paid the biggest compliment he could to the show: He delivered one of his typically eye-popping visual spectacles, one which will undoubtedly go down in the books. And keep in mind, everybody has played on SNL, from U2 and ABBA, to Frank Zappa, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, R.E.M., Public Enemy, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, RUN-DMC, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake.
Not content to set up on the same Grand Central Terminal-themed set as everyone else, 'Ye draped the set in a billowing, stark white sheet, standing atop a set of stairs in a red suit and wearing a gold garland crown, his neck heavy with long gold chains. From there he proceeded to kill the song as a group of ballet dancers performed a live version of his "moving painting" video for the track. It was the kind of visual feast you expect from Kanye, and by the time he came back for an equally arresting "Runaway" with a group of dancers hitting poses in sync with the rhythm, again against the white background, you knew you were seeing something epic.
It got us thinking about some of the other "SNL" sets that have set our eyes and ears on fire. One of the first that pops to mind is one of the all-time classic moments on the show, and the one that got Elvis Costello banned for more than a dozen years. The then-angry young man was slotted to play "Less Than Zero" on his "SNL" debut in 1977, but after hitting the first few bars of that tune, he switched to a song he was told not to play, "Radio, Radio," an anti-commercialism rant.