Kanye West and his Sunday Service Choir played Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday, Jan. 18, as part of Awaken 2020, a free 10-hour rally billed as the “first epic evangelical stadium event of the decade.”
So how did that go?
Here’s what we know:
Kanye’s set wasn’t all ‘Jesus’ music
West could’ve filled his set with selections from last year’s chart-topping “Jesus is King,” a Christian album he’s called “an expression of the gospel.” But they also dipped into his earlier work, doing “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” from “The Life of Pablo.”
Those two songs also were featured on “Jesus is Born,” a Sunday Service album, but the latter was reworked to eliminate the graphic sexual content that made it not suitable for church.
They also performed “Jesus Walks” for obvious reasons.
Kanye talked about his relationship with God and the devil
West introduced “Jesus Walks” to the crowd at Sun Devil Stadium by talking through his religious evolution.
“They always say the devil trying to play a trick on somebody. But we played a trick on the devil,” West said. “It’s like God getting the last laugh. I started with this song and this whole time the devil had thought he had me. It’s like they would’ve blocked it or something if they knew we was gonna be here one day. This a Trojan horse if I ever seen one. Seem like God got the last laugh.”
Sunday Service got rave reviews
“The power of that choir could not be dampened or contained by the stadium’s sound system,” Ashley Naftule wrote for Phoenix New Times. “Their voices soared skyward, full of an intensity of feeling that was deeply moving.”
He later added that he was “struck by how vibrant and beautiful the music was.”
Fans on Twitter were ecstatic.
Sheldon Johnson tweeted, “This was an experience of a lifetime. Thank you Kanye, Very cool!”
Quinsey Sablan tweeted, “It was truly a dream. They’re incredible.”
And Rohn Starling tweeted, “Wow wow wow I’m shooketh to my core.”
Sun Devil Stadium wasn’t packed
A report on ABC15.com described the crowd size as “hundreds of people.”
And Phoenix New Times’ Ashley Naftule wrote that, although the event had sold out, “a fair chunk of the bleachers were empty for the first few hours of Awaken 2020.” By the time West took the stage, “the crowd had increased in size, though it was still by no means a packed house.”
Awaken distanced itself from Lou Engle
Awaken 2020 shared a message on Saturday appearing to distance itself from Lou Engle, a pastor who had been scheduled to appear at the event. Engle was removed from the lineup following public outcry over his anti-LGBTQ beliefs.
A message posted on the Awaken website that’s signed by event organizer David Herzog reads, in part:
“Like Kanye, Awaken 2020 has no place for affiliation of hate or harm toward any other person. … If any of our past potential or current event participants, speakers, and collaborators were affiliated with any such harmful platforms in any way or at any time, we do not support any view points as such.”
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