Only a week after his mother’s death, Kanye West returned to the concert stage Saturday night in Paris, only to dramatically break down in tears, audience members tell PEOPLE.
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.
“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, crying onstage for five minutes.”
“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.
Trying to recover onstage, West restarted the song but was unable to finish. He 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.
Though I feel its kinda soon for him to be performing, I think, reading this, I have a new-found respect for him. The funeral for Donda West will take place on November 20th in Oklahoma City.