"Why can’t we take the music we like and put it with the God we love?" - Kirk Franklin
No statement may better encapsulate Kirk Franklin’s career than this quote. Constantly mixing the sacred (the church) with the proposed profane (the world), Kirk Franklin has been able to bridge a divide that some ministers, and Christians, could only imagine. Franklin’s ability to place familiar music in the context of scripture, has given him access, and credibility, to younger generations that many have written off as lacking spirituality, and abandoning the church. While some religious leaders have casted off younger generations, Kirk Franklin has gone to meet them, welcoming them with open arms.
On Friday, April 8th, Kirk Franklin brought his 20 Years In One Night Tour to Oklahoma City’s newest musical venue, The Criterion. Performing in front of a packed audience, Kirk Franklin performed songs from a catalog that extends from 1993 to the present.
Paying homage to Gospel artists that came before Kirk Franklin, the concert began with songs played over the sound system by Andrae Crouch – Soon and Very Soon and The Clark Sisters – I’m Looking For A Miracle, both of which were deemed as being profane – or too worldly – for the then climate of Gospel music. Like Walter Hawkins and The Clark Sisters who came before him, Franklin follows in this lineage of Gospel artists that have musically pushed the envelope. After the recorded portion, a recorded conversation between Kirk Franklin and his 10-year old self began to play, where the younger Kirk Franklin says, “I want to make gospel music, but I want to make people dance too!”
I want to make Gospel music, but I want to make people dance too!
And in true fashion of having the desire to bridge the divide between traditional Gospel music and secular music, the concert begins with Franklin’s Revolution; a song written during a tumultuous time for African-Americans in the late 90’s, that questions the necessity of a political revolution, but also questions the necessity of a revolution in Gospel music, challenging the status quo on both fronts. Shifting from Revolution, Franklin walks out to an anticipated crowd, as the band begins to play Brighter Day, an up tempo song led by an infectious bass line and funky guitar riff. Adding on to an already excited crowd, the arrangement of Brighter Day begins to mesh with the music from Jay-Z’s Public Service Announcement. As Franklin danced from one end of the stage to the next, much of the first half of the show was filled with up-tempo songs – it felt like a party – as the audience danced along too, rarely sitting down.
Earlier this year Franklin caught flack from religious leaders and "church folk" for collaborating with Kanye West on his song Ultralight Beam. Many felt that Franklin had, once again, gone too far by teaming up with West. In addressing the concerns many held about his collaboration, Franklin performed Give Me – a song that asks God for inexplicable joy, while simultaneously being introspective about ones journey. To close Give Me, Franklin states, “If we humble ourselves, people/ fall on our face/ anybody can be saved/ even Kanye” A direct response to his critics.
Closing out the concert, Franklin performed two of of his more popular songs Smile and Stomp. Filled with energy and excitement, the audience danced along as Franklin bounced from the stage and out into the audience to take selfies with fans. And to cap the night off Franklin performed Stomp, rearranged with Morris Day and The Time’s Jungle Love. It was at this point that I lost my mind and I can’t remember what happened next, but I do know that it was the end of the show. See the video below for evidence.
Musical Director and Keyboards: Shaun Martin
Bass: Matt Ramsey
Guitar: Vindell Smith
Keyboard and Organ: Ayron Lewis
Drums: Terry Baker