Nearing the end of the more than 60-minute performance, with the riff of “Hey Mama” beginning, West attempted to introduce the tribute to a sold-out crowd at Le Zénith in Paris, saying “this song is for my mother….” and could get no further. (See the YouTube video.)
“He just cracked,” one attendee tells PEOPLE, “He was at the end of his concert and had just started to dedicate the song and then he just lost it completely.”
“He said the word, ‘Mother’ and just couldn’t go any further,” Le Parisien journalist Meddy Magloire said. “A back-up singer, the DJ and a guitar player came over to console him. It looked like he might collapse. He just couldn’t continue. He just stood there in a spotlight, crying while the band continued playing.”
After a few moments of stunned silence, Magloire says, the audience of 5,000 reacted by offering calls of encouragement, which grew into applause.
The band restarted the song, but West left the stage, returning after 10-15 minutes to conclude the concert with a rousing performance of “Stronger.”
“He was very nervous, seemed to have gathered himself up, and had a lot of energy,” Magloire says. “He kept shouting out to the audience, ‘I need you… I need you right now.’ and the public was screaming back. It was magic.”
His arrival in Paris at the Hotel Le Meurice on Friday, accompanied by fiancée Alexis Phifer and her son, was unexpected, coming just hours after another scheduled concert set for Monday in Amsterdam was officially canceled.
West is scheduled to perform in Brussels on Sunday night. It’s now expected he will return to the United States for his mother’s funeral in Oklahoma City on Tuesday afternoon before returning to Europe to perform in London on Thursday.