This Easter morning, Kanye West stood on the mount – a man-made spot literally referred to as “The Mountain” – at Coachella to perform his Sunday Service. The super-secret Calabasas concert series, which is usually invitation-only and requires a signed NDA, has been a hot ticket for celebrities such as Katy Perry and Busy Philipps looking for a quasi-religious experience, a Kanye performance, and a full-on gospel choir all in one. (And, if you’re lucky, it’ll also include an appearance from North West, whose mic may or may not be turned on.) Since January, normies like us only get a glimpse of this spiritual art experiment – is it a party? An actual church? – in Kim Kardashian-West’s Instagram stories or the well-curated @kanyessundayservice. But on this morning in the California desert, Kanye brought it to the masses via YouTube and took Coachella to church.
On the same day Jesus resurrected, Kanye was looking to do the same with his career by offering a church-like experience that could wash away his long-list of recent PR sins. Praise be to ‘Ye and Coachella for making this happen so quickly. Originally slated to headline Coachella, Kanye bowed out after the festival reportedly couldn’t build him a giant dome. But, build Kanye a mountain and he will come in his Sunday best.
There were no sermons, or rants, which have been par for the course for anyone who has seen Kanye live as of late. But in Indio, CA, the home of many golf courses, it was just good vibes and G.O.O.D. Music seen through a telescope, which made it feel like you were spying on this not-so-secret Sunday Service.
For the first time in a long time, Kanye let the music do the talking, saying nothing for most of the performance, which included dancers intermingled in the crowd and a shot of North West showing off her moves. In fact, Kanye barely popped up on the screen, but the few times he did, he looked overcome with joy. A reminder that yes, Kanye does smile.
Instead of the “me,” Kanye was focused on the “we,” playing band leader of this ensemble that was ready to get a little funky in their mauve Church Clothes that made them look like a little Polyphonic Spree. When Kanye finally did take the mic for The College Dropout classic “All Falls Down,” he seemed unsure if he even wanted it, a change for a guy famously known for stealing the mic away from Taylor Swift.
Nearly two decades after “Jesus Walks,” Kanye is still merging hip-hop and gospel in his image, but his Coachella performance, not unlike Beyoncé’s Homecoming, had him unapologetically showing what it is he believes in. While Bey went for a drumline in her celebration of HBCUs and Black excellence, Ye went with Wurlitzers to go full-tilt for the Black church. Kim K recently told Jimmy Kimmel Live! that Sunday Service is "more of just a healing experience" than a religious one. "There’s no praying, there’s no sermon, no word, just music, and just a feeling,” she said, “and it’s Christian.”
Oh, this Coachella Sunday Service was definitely Christian in ways that are bound to turn people off — but for those willing to catch the spirit there was something powerful about a performance that stanned for a brighter day to come.
Over the course of the over two-and-a-half-hour, 24-song performance, Chance The Rapper preached “Jesus Christ is Lord” on the already spiritual “Ultralight Beam” right before DMX gave a sermon. “Fade” became a praise Jesus dance-off that had them reworking ‘Ye’s original non-denominational lyrics to “He’s alive.” That “he” was Jesus, but no one would blame you for thinking it was Kanye, too.
On this day, “Power” was a spiritual for those who think no one besides God should have all that power – something Kanye might understand a little too well in the decade since writing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Let’s just say Kanye shouting about the devil trying to bring him down on “Jesus Walks” felt a little more real than usual.
In between, Kanye’s choir turned Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” into an ode to Jesus, before letting Coachella know “we have everything we need” in a new song that is presumably off his next album, Yandhi, a Yeezy spin on Gandhi. Kanye also debuted the new track “Water,” which looks at starting over fresh. “We are water,” it repeats, “like a newborn daughter.”
It was just him asking Jesus and, perhaps, those at Coachella and watching on YouTube to save him from the old Kanye and welcome this new Kanye with open arms. But instead of repeating four Hail Mary’s and an Our Father, he decided to dance it in the Palm Springs desert, hands up to the heavens.