The reigning kings and queen of urban gospel had more than enough firepower and passion to keep the four-hour Hopeville show moving at a smooth, never preachy, pace. The Broadway-like “Love of My Life” opened the stage setting of a fictitious intersection of Hopeville Avenue and Main Street in the inner city of Hopeville and provided a pulpit for Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin to tell their tales of salvation through song. All were backed by a scorching band and an 11-member backup vocal cast (eight women, three men).
Adams, blessed with one of the sweetest voices on the planet, played a too-short set that included “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” “Gotta Believe” and her acclaimed “Open My Heart.” That song alone should have secured her a place of greatness in pop music, but with her determination to remain true to her gospel roots, Adams seems content in the smaller urban gospel arena.
McClurkin, the 21st century Bebe Winans, right down to his exquisite tonality, received a tumultuous ovation just by appearing in a crisp, cream-colored suit. His commanding baritone smoothed its way through “Stand,” “Just for Me” and “I Got My Mind Made Up.” McClurkin’s versatility surprised the audience as he sang fluid translations in Japanese, Dutch, Zulu and Spanish to “Hope Don’t Hit You.” Adams rejoined McClurkin on the David Foster-written “The Prayer,” with McClurkin deferring the lion’s share of the song to Adams.
Headliner Kirk Franklin is not a vocalist. He is a preacher and an accomplished cheerleader-conductor-mime who guides the chorus and band through such tunes as “Brighter Day” and “Riverside.” He proselytized on finding the Lord and eventually asked his wife, Tammy, to come onstage, where he thanked her for seven years of marriage. As Franklin waited for the right words to “sing,” crooner Brian McKnight’s “Still in Love” came on as Franklin mouthed the words. McKnight then stepped onstage to reveal himself as the audience let out a warm laugh for Franklin’s valiant attempt at singing.
The second half focused on testifying, closing with a rousing “Hosanna,” allowing a final dramatic ending for the power of great gospel music to radiate. McClurkin, Adams and Franklin are the very best proponents to make underappreciated gospel music more palatable to the masses.