BUZZ Review: Witnessing the magic that Kanye West’s gospel concert brought to Jamaica

Kanye West was surrounded by his choir as he sang. (Photos: Shaquiel Brooks)
Kanye West was surrounded by his choir as he sang. (Photos: Shaquiel Brooks and Chris Lewinson)

Emancipation Park was forever changed on Friday night, October 18, as American musician Kanye West brought the spirit of God to the hundreds who crammed into New Kingston venue to witness history.

And let me tell you, the venue, compared to others across the Corporate Area, wasn’t ideal, but to see how many Jamaicans turned out for the Chicago-rapper turned Christian’s free pop-up concert with his 120-member strong Sunday Service Experience… AH-MAZ-ING!!

Listen, Kanye brought out the creatives, prideful eclectics, families, curious onlookers, Jamaicans in wheelchairs – heck, even a few Mormons were there in their numbers at Emancipation Park.

Grey clouds and drizzles of rain threatened to put a damper on the concert, but the masses stayed hopeful.

At 6:15 p.m., Jamaicans – probably last in line when God was blessing people with patience – started their own party, chanting (and I kid you not) Father Abraham.

This choir member sang her heart out.
This choir member sang her heart out.

Jesus’ Love (Bubblin’ Over); I Am A Promise; I Am Under The Rock, and the devotion continued in earnest with little signs of slowing down.

The first drums started beating four minutes later, at 6:19 p.m., and cheers ripped through the venue. We were minutes away from showtime, but the crowd swelled continually.

Anxious fans

Nearly half-hour later, at 6:40 p.m., and the claustrophobic conditions were making my skin itch.

So. Many. People.

The crowds grew thicker close to the front of the stage, but I pulled back, needing more air and space to breathe.

Anxious fans waited… and waited…and waited.

For some, it was more than worth it, as this was the first-ever glimpse of Kanye they’ll have – a memory they’d treasure, always.

Kanye West ministered to the audience.
Kanye West ministered to the audience.

Ten minutes from a prompt start and a false alarm got patrons riled up: they wanted Kanye West, and they wanted him now.

At around 6:53 p.m., things got interesting. The supporting band marched on stage, and got a heroes’ welcome, and they revelled in the love.

Kanye West’s Sunday Service Music Experience rolled out at 7:05 p.m., and BUZZ fam, they looked GOODT!

All phones were out while Kanye was on stage.
All phones were out while Kanye was on stage.

The spirit of the Lord waded in, and we were blessed with it all. Vocals. Ministry. Prayer. Choreography. And VOCALS!!!

Donned in their Jamaica shirts and the seal of the city of Kingston, the Sunday Service Music Experience singers swooned Jamaicans with a brilliant, gospel-infused remix to Welcome to Jamrock.

I Am Blessed, I Know His Name, Lift Jesus Higher, Hallelujah and How Excellent Is Thy Name – the hits kept coming, and Emancipation Park took them happily.

That, turns out, was just the appetizer, and Kanye took the stage around 7:30 p.m. with Beautiful Morning.

New Kingston was never the same.

Indeed, Jesus is LIT!

Keep on Believin’, Jamaica

A gospel-themed flavour to Kanye’s Fade was next. Brilliantly delivered and harmonised to death, Kingston ate it all.

Goddamn- Oops. I mean Hallelujah, that remix was my fayyyyyayayayvourite!!

“I just know I love God.”

— Kanye West

Also, can we take a moment to give that drum solo some props?! Those brothers went STUPID, aye!

But pause, for a show that was marketed as his, Kanye, while not lacking confidence was a ‘sidekick’ to Sunday Service. Maybe that’s how he planned it?

Beautiful melody

Right as I spoke, there he was, singing Nothing Too Hard For God. As he serenaded Emancipation Park, West said that faith is something in his heart.

“I’m trying my best, I don’t have all the information, I just know I love God. We don’t call on him enough,” he began.

“And I surrounded myself with beautiful melody. The people need to have solid word; they need food,” the rapper continued.

Kanye West brought the house down with Jesus Walks.
Kanye West brought the house down with Jesus Walks.

West paused for a moment and shared that his favourite verse is Mark 1:15, quoting the first words of Jesus.

Kanye’s speech made way for a techno picker-upper that a crowd, some of whom had been standing for hours, surely needed.

A soulful rendition of I Will Lift Mine Eyes renewed the strength of Emancipation Park. But, let’s be honest, who could truly complain?

Ugh, those harmonies, the CHILLS down my spine as the Sunday Service Music Experience crescendo-ed to a glorious AMEN – one could feel all was right in the world.

Their last song was an upbeat Jesus Brought The Sunshine, but hang on. Before the choir could have a final say, Emancipation Park demanded Jesus Walks and more Kanye West!

The collective request of a city was answered, BUZZ fam, that first oooooh-ooh-ooh turned Kingston into shambles, but in a good way…

Eargasm

Kanye upped the ante with Ultra Light Beam, and it was as if the Life of Pablo hit and gospel had a baby – it was so dreamy, so perfect.

The choir leader was expressive throughout the night.
The choir leader was expressive throughout the night.

What. An. Eargasm 

*shudders*

“Kingston, we love you. God loves you. Jesus loves you. How do I know? Cause the Bible told me so!” And with that Kanye was gone, his Sunday Service Music Experience blew kisses, and the concert ended just as it started – with a climactic instrumental from the supporting band.

Overall experience 8/10. Timely, brilliant and definitely BUZZ-worthy.