NORMAL - Illinois State University students will bring hip-hop artist Kanye West to the Redbird Arena on April 24, signaling a renewed interest in concerts at the venue.
The controversial Grammy winner will be the first nationally known act to play an ISU-organized show at Redbird since Phish performed there in October 1999. (Tool and John Mellencamp subsequently were booked but canceled.)
The excitement surrounding West and hopes of more concerts on campus prompted student leader Jillian Davidson and her associates to organize a news conference, which is rare for a concert announcement. Davidson heads Redbird Entertainment, a student committee under the University Program Board.
Tickets for the show go on sale March 25.
In announcing the show Tuesday, Davidson said renewed effort to open Redbird to concerts comes with moderate goals, at least initially: A minimum of one major act with high student interest per semester, counting shows at Redbird and the nearby Braden Auditorium.
She also said the Redbird Arena effort is coincidental to the opening of U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. The timing - a few days after the Coliseum lost its March 31 opening act, Sheryl Crow - was accidental, she said.
Crow, who is being treated for breast cancer, is expected to reschedule for sometime this summer.
The commitment to concerts at the arena has been an issue since before its opening in 1989.
Financial issues have been a primary factor in lack of concert bookings, said Davidson, who declined to disclose terms with West. She added that facility availability is another issue preventing more shows, as the arena is used by athletic teams.
In booking West at the peak of his career, ISU has attracted one of its biggest headliners in the arena's history.
At the recent Grammy Awards, he was honored for best rap performance for "Gold Digger," best rap song for "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" and best rap album for "Late Registration."
He was nominated or shared a nomination for seven other Grammys.
West also has become one of the more controversial performing artists working today.
In September, during a Hurricane Katrina relief show on national television, he went off script and stated, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
He recently made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, posing like Jesus with a crown of thorns, over the headline "The Passion of Kanye West."
The Rolling Stone story stated, "Not since Tupac Shakur has a rapper been so compelling, so ridiculously brash, so irresistibly entertaining."
West was born in Atlanta, Ga., but grew up in Chicago. He became one of music's most accomplished producers, working with Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Ludacris and others.
He started releasing his own songs and in 2005 produced his first solo album, the best-selling "The College Dropout."
He performed in Champaign's Assembly Hall last year, according to Davidson.
She said he was pursued in part because of his appeal to fans of various genres.