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Kanye West made Coachella history this weekend, when he brought his famous Sunday Service spectacle to the Southern Californian desert festival for a massive Easter morning celebration. Although the “Jesus Walks” rapper has been staging Sunday Services since January, they have so far taken place in a secret Los Angeles location and have been invite-only, so this performance was the first time that the general public could attend. (Everyone with a Coachella wristband was welcome.) The full show was also live-streamed on YouTube through a fisheye-style peephole lens, for an especially intimate effect.
West has performed at Coachella three times previously, and was slated to headline this year until, according to an exclusive Billboard report, he pulled out at the last minute because the festival would not accommodate his ambitious plan to appear on a giant, custom-built, dome-shaped stage. Instead, West ended up performing Sunday morning on a special hilltop stage at the festival’s camping area — marking the first time that a major event has taken place on the Coachella campground in the festival’s 20-year history. The site opened at 6 a.m. for the 9 a.m. service, and a reported 10,000 fans showed up to praise and worship, Kanye-style.
West, rocking Easter-egg lavender hair to match his Teletubbies-reminiscent baggy purple church outfit, served mainly as the choir director for the two-and-a-half-hour event, stationing himself behind a keyboard and ceding the stage to his purple-robed orchestra, horn section, gospel singers, percussionists, and the dozens of ecstatic, synchronized dancers spread out across the hills surrounding the camping area. In fact, the first 40 minutes of the service was entirely instrumental, and West wasn’t even shown on the live stream until about 9:50 a.m.
The overall mood of the event was joyful and energetic, but it wasn’t until about 11 a.m., when West finally stepped to the mic — hoarsely but passionately rapping his 2004 The College Dropout hit "All Falls Down," followed by the premiere of a downtempo, ethereal new spiritual song, "Water," featuring Ty Dolla $ign — that the Coachella attendees truly got on their feet to testify, as West intoned solemnly, “We are water.”
Other superstar guests during the service included West’s Kids See Ghosts collaborator Kid Cudi (with whom West made a surprise appearance at Coachella on Saturday night); his protégé Teyana Taylor belting her West-produced 2018 track "Never Would Have Made It”; DMX delivering a sermon in which he implored attendees to “teach women to honor their men and men to respect their ladies” and warned that this is “a time of spiritual warfare”; and Chance the Rapper performing "Ultralight Beam” with a full choir.
At one point during this final hour, West was so overcome with emotion that he started weeping, as DMX, Cudi, and Chance surrounded and prayed with him. West and his sprawling Sunday Service band and all-stars played or interpolated several effectively gospel-tinged covers, including Kool & The Gang’s “Summer Madness,” the Gap Band’s “Outstanding,” Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life,” the Jones Girls’ “Nights Over Egypt,” and three songs by Stevie Wonder, “Do I Do,” “As,” and “Master Blaster.” But the climax of the Easter event was, fittingly, West’s own “Jesus Walks,” with West finishing the epic anthem on his knees.
The event was no doubt a religious experience, literally, for all. But it was of course not without its flashy showbiz element. Multiple members of the Kardashian entourage — Khloe Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Kris Jenner, Kylie Jenner, Travis Scott, and West's wife, Kim Kardashian West — were spotted in the VIP section, and West had controversial “church clothes” for sale, including $50 “Jesus Walks” socks and $70 “Trust God” T-shirts.
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