Photo Courtesy of FDRMX
It was a hot August Saturday in Central Park today as the seven members of the Motown Gospel Revue took the stage. Despite the heat, the artists gave it their all, singing into the sun from the SummerStage, sweating bullets, and never letting the energy of the show die down for a second. The audience was very, very into it. If they weren’t fanning themselves with greatly appreciated Motown Records paper fans, their arms were up, swaying back in forth with the music, singing along with each and every song – this crowd came prepared and knew all the words. There were also some of the best dancers among them that this writer has ever seen.
Radio show host Liz Black hosted the seventh annual Motown Gospel Revue this year, a perfect match for this lineup. She kept the crowd vibing between all seven of the gospel singers, playfully bantering with the DJ while making announcements about upcoming shows and events the crowd would be interested in. She made a good point about the only downside to today’s show (besides the sweltering heat), that there was no real food. “Where’s the fried chicken?” she asked. “Didn’t they have fried chicken last year?” Indeed, there were no chickens to be found, only Asian hot dogs, pizza, and tiny tacos. It looked like the fries and the ice cream were the biggest sellers this year.
Brian Courtney Wilson, founder of the adult male choir at the Rock of All Ages Baptist Church took the stage in a styling sports coat complete with white elbow patches. His performance was so one hundred and ten percent that he was jumping, dancing, hopping back and forth across the length of the stage like he couldn’t even help himself. Kierra Sheard, in a lovely summery yellow skirt, sang songs from her 12-track Graceland album, getting the crowd bouncing with her jaunty backbeats. Pastor Charles Jenkins, the senior pastor of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, had the audience swaying together with his inspirational choral arrangements.
Tasha Cobbs led the audience in a powerfully intense sing along to her hit song “Break the Chain,” which won her her first Grammy for Best Gospel/Contemporary Music Performance. Vashawn Mitchell, another Grammy Award winner, in shiny silver wing-tip dancing shoes, sang and danced across the stage in a style reminiscent of Elwood from the Blues Brothers.
The show closed with the ever-engaging Smokie Norful, whose newest album ForeverYours was released only four days ago. Smokie’s emotionally charged performance makes it clear how he earned four number one albums, and numerous Grammy Awards, among other notable awards. Read FDRMX’s interview with Smokie Norful on the Encyclopedia of Music, coming out this Tuesday. Each Motown Gospel singer held nothing back spiritually, emotionally, and musically today. Find out more about the artists here.