Kanye West straddled a couple of Sabbaths with a Sunday Service performance on Friday (Sept. 27) afternoon in Detroit.

The spirit was certainly right as West and his Sunday Service Collective — a 150-voice and nine-musician unit he's assembled to perform his recent spate of gospel-oriented shows, which he launched in April at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — delivered 85 minutes of buoyant scripture at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, a picturesque venue along the Detroit River where boats bobbed behind the stage to take part in the experience.

The show, which started more than 90 minutes late, came ironically on a day West was expected to release his highly anticipated new album Jesus Is King. Not a word was said about it onstage, but as the Sunday Service ended, West announced a surprise event, Jesus Is King: A Kanye West Experience, for Friday night at Detroit's Fox Theatre.

Though he brought the star power, West was not the focus of the Sunday Service. Sporting a leather-jacket hoodie, jeans, white sneakers and, at times, shades, he only vocalized once, toward the end of "Father Stretch My Hands," and played some electronic percussion on a couple of later songs, including a soaring rendition of "This is the Day (Psalm 118:24)." He spent most of the time enveloped in the center of the buoyantly choreographed collective, occasionally walking around the stage with North and Saint, his oldest children with wife Kim Kardashian, who also came on and off the stage throughout the set.

In West's stead the heavy lifting was done by choir director Jason White, who served as pastor/emcee while conducting the ensemble as well as 2,000 local volunteers sitting in the crowd, who had been schooled on the arrangements during a two-day clinic and a lengthy morning rehearsal at the venue. It provided an invigorating 360-degree effect for the gospel adaptations, including "Eternal Life," "Savior," "Jesus Christ is the Light" and "We Serve a Great God" — part of which was set to Tracey Chapman's "Fast Car" — as well as covers of Steve Green's "Hallelujah, Salvation and Glory," Richard Smallwood’s "Oh Lord, How Excellent" and the traditional "There is a Balm in Gilead."

"We're just people that love Jesus, and we just want to sing about him," White told the Detroit crowd, which scooped up the 6,000 offered free tickets in less than 20 minutes the day before. "That's all we're here to say today — don't forget about God." Los Angeles pastor Jason Tyson delivered a brief sermon about the nature of God, and White also paid homage to Detroit's musical history, from Motown to its rich gospel heritage, name-checking the Winans, Commissioned and especially the Clark Sisters, who the collective has been covering during its services. The iconic group's "You Brought the Sunshine" closed Friday's show, in fact, with West standing up towards the stage front members of the choir moving to the back of the stage wave at the boats as they walked off.

West has not yet announced any future Sunday Services nor a release date for Jesus Is King. Kardashian tweeted a handwritten track list on Sept. 27 that has not yet been confirmed, and the album is expected to include guest appearances by Ty Dolla $ign, Ant Clemons and Momo Boyd. 

The Detroit show was locked in just four days prior and required the venue to reopen after wrapping its 2019 season during Labor Day Weekend. Sulaiman Mausi, co-owner of the Right Productions — which operates The Aretha for the city of Detroit — and the DOME Group, which is also putting on the Art of Cool festival in Durham, N.C., this weekend — said on Friday that. "Considering the magnitude of what he has been doing, and the fact that we are a family of faith, we didn't give it a second thought. We support [West's] movement and the impact it’s having on the world."

Find highlights of Sunday Service below.


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