Kanye West
Credit: Taylor Hill/WireImage

Oh, poor Avett Brothers. As part of the counterprogamming scheme at New York’s Governors Ball festival, Sunday night’s schedule pitted the worthy North Carolina folk act against one of the most interesting, talked-about people making music right now: self-declared god Kanye West, whose sixth album Yeezus hits streets June 18.

And while we’re sure the A-Bros put on a great show for however many fans showed up for their set, the night clearly belonged to West, who drew a small nation of people to his festival-ending show at the event’s main stage.

In a way, it was just an afterparty for him. The future father celebrated his 36th birthday sans Kim Kardashian* Saturday night at a party in Manhattan’s West Village, where buddy Jay-Z, buddy-in-law Beyoncé, and fellow Gov Ball performer Nas were all on the guest list. (This might explain why Nas ended his headlining set early that night?) But despite the audience’s attempts to wish him a happy birthday, Kanye didn’t exactly look like he was in the mood for revelry when he took the stage at around 9:50 pm, twenty minutes behind schedule.

Flanked by a pair of jumbotrons flashing vidoes of barking dogs and Adbusters-y imagery, ‘Ye opened his set with the established Yeezus cuts “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” — in other words, the same thing you saw on his recent Saturday Night Live outing. While both songs were on the aggressive side, so far “New Slaves” seems to be the more enjoyable (or at least approachable) of the two. Take a look at both performances from the festival in the videos below:

“Black Skinhead”:

“New Slaves”:

Other new songs turned up as the show went on, like the scream-y number “I Am a God,” which includes an early contender for the best lyric of 2013: “Hurry up with my damn croissants.” And then there was the intriguing techno-rap “On Site” and, later in the set, a mysterious little jam backed by a rubbery beat and wailing riffs — but no title. Watch this batch of new songs below:

“On Site”:

“I Am a God”:


If these latest tunes don’t seem Top 40-friendly to you, well, Kanye couldn’t care less. “Honestly, when I listen to radio, that ain’t where I wanna be no more,” he told the crowd during a mid-concert monologue. “At this point, I could give a f— about selling a million records as long as I put out an album that y’all can rock to all motherf—ing summer. And I don’t give a f— that the label’s saying I can sell more records.”

“We ain’t got no big NBA campaign or nothing like that,” he also noted, perhaps as a swipe at “S—, we ain’t got no cover. We just made some real music, you know, like back when I used to make albums and s—.” The speech came in the middle of his performance of “Clique” and, fittingly, was followed up by his remix of Chief Keef’s hater anthem “I Don’t Like.”

Despite all that, ‘Ye is no stranger to making mainstream crowd-pleasers, and he treated the audience to plenty of them throughout the night. “Good Life” was one of the more positive songs he pulled out of his pocket, while other fan favorites like “All Falls Down,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and “All of the Lights” got the entire island to rap along with him. There was even a moment, as he and the crowd clapped to the beat of “Power” together, that when seemed to enjoy himself.

In the end, though, he finished right back where started by closing the show with a reprise of “Black Skinhead.” It wasn’t the most popular decision among the many casual Kanye fans in the crowd, but by then they’d heard most of what they came for, and then some.

Check out the full setlist below:

“Black Skinhead”

“New Slaves”




“On Site”

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”


“I Am a God”

“Jesus Walks”

“Say You Will”


“Flashing Lights”

“All of the Lights”


“I Don’t Like (Remix)”

“Good Life”

New Song

“All Falls Down”


“Diamonds (Remix)”


“Black Skinhead”*Updated to clarify that Kim Kardashian did not attend Kanye West’s birthday bash.

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