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We went to Kanye’s insane live album release in NYC and here’s what happened

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Back in January, Kanye West described his upcoming album, The Life of Pablo, as a gospel album. Yesterday, he held a massive church gathering at Madison Square Garden (MSG) to preview the new album and put on a fashion show for his Yeezy Season 3 collection with Adidas. The Life of Pablo leans more towards classic gospel than Yeezus, but not by a lot.

Yeezus was a jumbled attempt at experimentation that sounded like a well-produced rock album with an artist whose infatuation with singing smothered his own significant talent. The Life of Pablo sounds like its sensible cousin; an unhinged look at an artist with a clear vision to mix iconoclastic lyrics with ridiculously bombastic production. This album was made for arenas and speakers with volume knobs that go to 11.

The religious overtones framed the message of a few songs from The Life of Pablo more than they defined the entire album, as with Yeezus. Kanye isn’t proclaiming he’s a god, but he does compare himself and wife Kim Kardashian to Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary meeting in the club on the crowd favorite Wolves. To the entire crowd’s surprise, Frank Ocean came out of his self-induced exile since his classic 2012 debut album Channel, Orange to sing on the song’s outro. So, Yeezus proved he can make miracles happen.

Decked in a red long-sleeved shirt from his collection (being sold for $90), Kanye stationed himself on the far right behind his laptop, guiding the congregation through the album in front of a large sheet that blanketed the stage. Eventually, the sheet was removed, revealing a smattering of statuesque models, as the sounds of a choir chanting acapella on album intro Ultra Beam Light filled the arena. Gospel legends Kirk Franklin and Kelly Price lent vocals to the song, which elicited one of the biggest rounds of applause in the show.

At this moment, a man sitting next to me looked at the woman he was with and uttered, “is this real?”

The entire event was indeed surreal. The Kardashian clan, along with Caitlin Jenner, was dressed in all white outfits from Kanye’s new Adidas line, and stuck out like sore thumbs sitting among the crowd. At one point, Kanye even directed the crowd to say “amen” to the Kardashian family, which inspired a chorus of subtle boos. The strangest moment was the “F*&k Nike” chant that reverberated throughout the arena. Yeezus may just have given Adidas a few thousand new disciples.

There were moments of disjointed energy due to the structure of the show. The models staring emotionless around the arena were mirrored by the crowd at large as he sang the lyrics “If  I fuck this model | And she just bleached her asshole | And I get bleach on my T-shirt | I’ma feel like an asshole.”

Near the end, Kanye went into an expected rant about how hard it was do get this event done before thanking Adidas for footing the bill and making his grand proclamation seem a bit meager in comparison. But once he passed the cable connecting the sound system to the numerous people in his entourage, the grand spectacle quickly devolved into a bland house party.

Mexican drug lord Pablo Escobar was so powerful in Columbia that in 1991 the Columbian government allowed him to have the prison in which he was to serve a five-year prison sentence built to his specifications. The name of the prison: La Cathedral. While Kanye did not build Madison Square Garden, watching this grand spectacle for an Adidas apparel line and an album, paid for by the world’s second-largest sportswear manufacturer, almost seemed to prove he commanded similar reverence as Escobar.

With Kanye adding five more songs to The Life of Pablo‘s final track list and promising to release the album later today, we’ll soon all be able to live life like Pablo.

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