If you watched the 15th annual “Celebration of Gospel,” hosted by Golden Globe winning actress Taraji P. Henson, then you had no choice but to give God the praise and the glory. The event integrated various interpretations of gospel into the show from Rhythm and Blues, Hip Hop, Classic Gospel and Soul to a touch of Rock. It was a blessing to witness so many of gospel music’s greats who came out only to show up and show out at the Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles.
Kicking off the Celebration was Deitrick Haddon with a high-energy performance.
Then Taraji blessed the stage in a stunning sky blue satin gown. “That’s how you start a celebration,” she said, shouting out Haddon for a wonderful performance. “God is good,” she added.
Taraji, returning for a second year, revealed another side of her – who knew she could preach? She gave an encouraging word and testimony. “Things can be rough,” she said. “I know it looks bad but when you know who hold’s the future in the palm of your hand, you can’t help to get your praise on.”
She assured the crowd that this is the year for restoration using her own life as an example by acknowledging her accomplishments. The success that stemmed from her role as “Cookie” on TV’s hottest hip-hop dramas, “Empire,” took her by surprise. With Cookie having a life of her own, she wasn’t sure if she could host, but God made a way.
The jewel that she dropped for the night was to keep serving the Lord because “It is much sweeter to serve the King than to run and empire.” Won’t he do it!
Baltimore Maryland native Anthony Brown well-known for his urban contemporary gospel delivered an outstanding performance with background singers Group therAPy. The group set the tone of praise and worship with the song “Worth” from Brown’s album, Everyday With Jesus. Singers Tye Tribbett, Erica Campbell and Yolanda Adams were all deep in praise mode as he sang.
Tosha Cobbs sang “Put a Praise On It” featuring Kierra Sheard. The Grammy Award winner dropped an anointing message in our spirits. Before concluding her song, she stopped and performed the classic praise shuffle –Holy Ghost dance—, which was the highlight of her performance. “She may be fairly new to the gospel music arena, but her spirit is that of a veteran,” it said on BET’s website. “Tasha’s just answering God’s calling.” She definitely has a calling for gospel music over her life.
Next, Taraji gave a warm welcome to reigning queen of gospel, Pastor Shirley Caesar and one of R&B’s most soulful sons, Anthony Hamilton. The two joined to sing her latest single “It’s Alright, It’s Okay.” The inspirational song blended Caesar’s powerful voice with Hamilton’s soulful delivery. Bebe Winans smiled and sang along.
Rhythm and blues meets rhythm and praise through two of the most powerful and identifiable voices. The legendary R&B singer Chaka Khan and Donnie McClurkin performed “Walk With Me Lord” in a classic style gospel style song.
One thing we can say about Platinum-Selling artist and Grammy Award nominee Miss Tamela Mann is that she killed it! She sang an exclusive premier of her single “One Way,” rocking her spiked short blonde hair and silver and black dress. Few entertainers can match the energy and powerful voice she brings to the stage. “One Way” has an up-tempo soul, rock vibe, which Mann sang powerfully and displayed her melodious and rangeful voice. As soon as you thought she was done, she kept singing. She was on fire.
One half of the dynamic duo Mary Mary, Erica Campbell turned up to her trap style song with Big Shiz, “I Luh God.” The song is in the top 10 on the Top Christian/Gospel Albums chart. Awaiting Erica’s performance, the audience rocked out with her as she danced on stage singing “I Luh God. Don’t You luh God. What’s wrong with chu?” It was a proud moment for the sisters. The surprise was when an unknown voice began to rap and Empire’s Bryshere “Yazz” Gray appeared rapping his verse.
Yolanda Adams slayed her performance and looked flawless while doing it. She was filled with the spirit, and it made you remember what you’ve always loved about Yolanda Adams — she sings from her soul.
Actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner gave a heartfelt spoken word speech, then handed the stage over to Le’Andria Johnson, singing “Better Days are Coming,” which brought some to tears. She joined the stage with Brian Courtney who sang “Worth Fighting For.” Their performance was in sync, grabbing each other’s hands at the end.
20 years in the game, Kirk Franklin revolutionized the way we approach gospel and hip-hop music. He performed his single “Wanna Be Happy.” Amid his performance, Franklin yelled cut. The crew changed the set and the performers changed their clothes leaving us in suspense. Stepping it up a notch, they now were wearing Addidas sports jackets. The crew danced and flipped in the background and began their next song“1, 2, 3 Victory. 1, 2, 3 get up we got victory, no weapon they throw at me, you know it wont prosper.” Then, they did a choreographed dance incorporating some of the latest dances. With a strong ending, Franklin and his team come out in shirts that say “black lives still matter.”
Travis Green took the stage stringing his guitar with a unique look and neo-soul style. He sang one of our favorites “All Things Are Working for Our Good,” which we can’t help but to sing along. Travis Greene shared the stage with soul singer Chrisette Michelle and gospel’s finest Tye Tribbett. The audience waved their hands side to side and ate up every piece of the performance.
Christian music hall of famer, Pastor John P. Kee sang “Act Like You Know.”Then, Gospel Singer and Television Host known as Gospel music’s ambassador to the world, Dr. Bobby Jones began a tribute to Andrae’ Crouch. “He helped change the face of gospel,” said Jones. “He had the ability to bring conviction and healing into the same sentence. His sound changed everything about gospel.”
Donald Lawrence sang “Nobody Do Me Like Jesus” along with Shirley Caesar. Other artists also paid tribute such as Kurt Carr and singer Jessica Reedy, Pastor Donnie McKirklad singing, “Not Ashamed of the Gospel,” Bebe Winans and Tamala Mann with “Let the Church Say Amen”
The show concluded with a performance by Charles Jenkins, Young Heavenly Joy from “America’s Got Talent” and Tasha Page-Lockhart singing “War,” while Heavenly Joy ministered with her beautiful tap routine.
This year’s Celebration of Gospel was one for the books. Catch the encore tonight at 9/8c on BET!
Written by: Taylor Bennett