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Kirk Franklin

Hip-hop evangelist Kirk Franklin spoke loudly and carried a big (musical) stick Friday at the near-full Universal Ampthitheatre, the first of his two weekend shows, where he proved that large groups of young people can be motivated to expressions of love and tolerance, especially when they're spoken to in a language they can understand.

Hip-hop evangelist Kirk Franklin spoke loudly and carried a big (musical) stick Friday at the near-full Universal Ampthitheatre, the first of his two weekend shows, where he proved that large groups of young people can be motivated to expressions of love and tolerance, especially when they’re spoken to in a language they can understand.

Fronting an ambitious production that in some ways felt more like a rock concert than a gospel show, the Grammy-nominated Franklin led as many as 20 vocalists, eight dancers and seven musicians through a three-hour spectacle (with short intermission) that featured, among other things, complete strangers in the audience hugging one another en masse.

Franklin said you can “praise the Lord any way you want,” then gave witness with a fast-paced show that successfully linked contemporary R&B and rap styles with traditional Christian dogma.

Many of the numbers featured were taken from Franklin’s recent Gospo Centric/Interscope album, “The Nu Nation Project,” — his fourth consecutive platinum-certified release — but the concert versions of these inspirationals outperformed their recorded cousins by virtue of the passion and joy apparent in the performers’ voices and smiling faces.

Franklin sang and rapped and danced and even played some respectable piano, but most of the evening’s best performances were courtesy of the constantly changing and interacting group of singers who surrounded him on the big busy stage, highlighted by CeCe Winans’ powerful song of heavenly faith triumphing over a broken heart.

Show came to a rousing close with a high-energy rendering of the crossover hit “Stomp,” complete with sample of George Clinton’s “One Nation Under a Groove,” that brought the kids in the audience to their feet and into the aisles for a group revival dance.

Kirk Franklin

Universal Amphitheatre 6,251 seats $40.50 top

  • Production: Presented by Kmart & Universal Concerts. Opened and reviewed Feb. 19, 1999, closed Feb. 20.
  • Cast: Kirk Franklin <b>With:</b> CeCe Winans, Trin-I-Tee 5:7, The Family, 1NC, Steps of Praise Band: Bobby Sparks, Jerome Allen, Steve Lewis, Keith Anderson, Erick Morgan.