Kanye West electrifies Detroit fans with two free shows
Detroit — As a diehard Kanye West fan, Jameela Epps has shelled out plenty of money to see the rapper perform live. But work prevented her from joining thousands who snapped up free tickets to attend his highly sought "Sunday Service" at Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre on Friday.
She and other fans, however, got another chance to see him for free that night after the hip-hop artist surprised his followers with a second performance.
A friend alerted Epps that the star had announced the extra show, "Jesus is King: A Kanye West Experience," at the Fox Theatre. The Detroiter rushed to ensure she was among the first to secure general-admission tickets.
Three hours later, she stood in a lengthy line with others eager to learn whether West would unveil new music or continue the spiritual appeal he has brought to other cities.
"It’s definitely needed in the community," Epps said. "There’s a lot going on in Detroit. Hopefully, a concert like this can help unify us."
At the Franklin venue on the city's riverfront, thousands of mostly young Metro Detroiters of all racial backgrounds waited in line for hours to see the rap star and his world-famous wife.
The second Cynthia Smith spotted the rapper, wife Kim Kardashian West and their children walking to the stage, she beamed, screamed and furiously snapped pictures.
"It's a great inspiration," said Smith, 52, of River Rouge, as gospel music boomed in the background. "I've been praying for Kanye for years. I'm just so happy to see him walking in what he is supposed to. He has truly been converted."
West was nearly an hour and a half late to the event, but it didn't matter to the throngs of fans who waited. They were curious about West's gospel message and whether he was going to promote a new album fans have been clamoring about for months.
West, who has made headlines in the past two years for his friendship and visits with President Donald Trump, has been making these church-esque appearances in such cities as Atlanta, Dayton, Ohio and Chicago.
Such songs as"Hallelujah, Salvation and Glory" and "Father Stretch My Hands" had fans swaying as choir singers surrounded Kanye, who took the mic after the third song and electrified the amphitheater's crowd. One of his children stood close to the singer for much of the event, with his wife off in the background.
AJ Williams, 40, of Detroit, waited in the line for hours to see the outdoor concert and said West's visit reflects Detroit's importance.
"It says a lot about Detroit and our music history," she said. 'If you're an artist and you are doing something unique like this, that Detroit should be one of the places that you stop in because of our audience."
Williams said while realizing the "controversy" around the production and whether it's "sacrilegious or blasphemy or was he really trying to bring people to a perspective of redemption."
"I'm a person who likes to experience something before I make my own opinions, so I'm trying to see what it's all about," she said.
For Josiah Jackson, 18, of St. Clair Shores, it wasn't that deep. He has been a fan of West and wanted to get a glimpse and see him live.
"I just love the guy," Jackson said as he stood with three other friends in line. "He's just weird, so he can do whatever he wants to."
Then he joked, "We're going to praise Jesus."
Eric and Laura Cedo of Allen Park came to the event because of the Christian perspective and to see how that message would influence others.
"When I look and I see maybe 80-90% of the audience is in their 20s or younger, this is a whole group, a whole generation that left the church or are unchurched," he said.
"The fact that it's Kanye, it's not about coming and seeing him. For me, it's an opportunity to reach a whole group of people that may not attend a Sunday service at a church."
Shortly after West wrapped up the daytime performance, the Fox Theatre announced the superstar would perform there Friday evening. Tickets went as fast as they were available.
Details on the event were not released, but some of the hundreds who queued around the venue nearly two hours before it began were thrilled West had given them a second opportunity to see him.
Scott Hanlin of Milford attended the earlier concert and found tickets to join the crowd at the Fox with his girlfriend, Hannah Hosking.
Though Hanlin hoped to hear more music as was rumored, West himself remained the main attraction.
"He’s very much himself, even being very candid about mental health," he said. "It’s very important."
Ricarl Benjamin, an artist from Detroit, added West's presence in the city was powerful.
"Being a male and being spiritual, it’s kind of frowned up. It’s not ‘cool,' " the 22-year-old said while standing near the front of the theater. "He made it cool."