Bettie’s U.S. Juice: Gospel Music’s Stars Gather for A Mother’s Day Celebration

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Bettie StoryThe venue was packed, the anticipation was high.  People were, at times, getting quite impatient to get to their seats.  The first date of A Mother’s Day Celebration was finally here and backstage, while everyone seemed calm and composed, there was a certain excitement and electricity buzzing though air.

Urban Vibes Entertainment Presents:  A Mother’s Day Celebration was a highly anticipated event that was everything it promised to be and more (definitely lived up to the hype, a rarity nowadays in the world of music and live performance).

Setting a high energy tone for the entire evening, Jonathan McReynolds kicked off the event with an impressive 20-minute set with his band. After leading a sing-a-long to some real old-time religion, classic COGIC hymns and spirituals (which the audience surprised McReynolds by singing along to a lot longer than expected), the Chicago, Illinois native sang crowd favorites like “Gotta’ Have You” and “No Gray” (I don’t believe he will ever get off of a stage without singing his first smash hit, and it definitely never gets old). Injecting his signature humor and sarcasm into the mix, he had the audience singing, laughing and surrendering to the Lord in total worship.  With his voice pristine as always (with some audience members loudly exclaiming halfway through his performance “Man, he can really sing”), and his band in perfect sync, Jonathan Live was, as always, something to behold.

Next up, Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy’s set began with another high-energy medley, segueing effortlessly into Sly and the Family Stone’s R&B hit “Thank U Falettin’ Me Be Mice Elf”. No, that was not a typo. Yes, you read that right.  You might need to Google that one, and while you’re at it, take a listen to this 1970’s mega hit: https://youtu.be/NOa5UOHdwnc. Anthony and his crew showed off some pretty impressive dance moves and had me thinking I was at a Kirk Franklin concert for a minute.  Sidebar:  There are some AMAZING singers backing up Mr. Brown, and he highlighted each one of the four group members supporting him onstage by calling each one of them out to sing a hymn or gospel song interspersed within a Christian interpretation of John Legend’s “All of Me.” And of course, AJB and Group TherAPy were definitely not leaving Star Plaza’s stage without singing “Worth”.  Sitting down at the keyboard, he poured his heart and soul into his signature song and ended his set, bringing the house down and leaving the audience in cheers and tears.

Immediately following Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy, the whole audience at the Star Plaza got a major surprise and treat when the one and only Cece Winans sauntered onto the stage and shared her amazing gift and worship with all present in the building and with the Lord that night. Ms. Winans continues to defy age and reason…her voice is as great as ever, if not better, and she looks younger each time I see her.  The host for the evening, Chicago-based radio personality broadcast weekly on V103 and Inspiration 1390 Sonia Blakey, was leading the audience in a chorus of “Hallelujah” when Ms. Winans  – led by the spirit – joined the host on the stage without her knowledge. The audience was singing along and Sonia was beyond shocked to turn around and find CeCe behind her! Winans seemed to blend in with the other singers at first, because she knows the beauty of restraint, but once she really got into it, there was no mistaking that her gorgeous alto was in the mix.  She hugged the host and immediately went into her set, thrilling the audience with songs such as “Alone in his Presence” and “His Strength is Perfect” before setting the place ablaze for God when she closed out her performance with a searing rendition of “Alabaster Box”. Cece Winans even danced a bit in those four inch heels she was wearing as she was so compelled by the moving of God’s spirit in the venue.  Always the epitome of elegance and class, Winans, after making an offer to those in the audience who had not yet accepted Jesus as their savior to come to the Lord, left the stage the same way she entered—with a mouth full of praise!

Although he was slated as the headliner, and no one was expecting him to perform until much later in the evening, a last minute change found Marvin Sapp heading onto the stage directly behind the lovely Ms. Winans.  Looking relaxed in casual clothing, he seemed to really enjoy being out there.  I left the backstage area about halfway through the set and from the lobby I started hearing someone hitting some very high notes.  Consistent, strong, on-key bird notes.  Assuming it was a background singer, I was (and still am) shocked to see and hear Marvin scraping the sky with his voice.  Really?  Am I the only one who didn’t know about his incredible range?  He sang all of his hits, including “Never Could Have Made It” and his latest “Yes, You Can”, my personal favorite.  His star quality was in full effect and the audience was at fever pitch.  He even had my 91-year-old Mom on her feet clapping her hands and dancing, and that’s no easy feat.

Last but not least, the incredible John P. Kee came out, and just like the “anchor” running the fourth and final leg of a relay, offered an astounding closing performance to end the night.  He took his impromptu headliner position to task and belted out another 30 minutes of pure musicianship, worship and praise.  Covering hits spanning his multi-decade career, Kee and his impressive choir and band serenaded the audience with throwbacks such as “Lily in the Valley” and “Show Up” to more recent offerings such as “Clap Your Hands” and his newest hit “Level Next.” Before getting on stage, Sapp indicated with a biblical pun that he “was just a forerunner to someone greater.” Sapp was not wrong or overestimating at all. Kee delivered an incredible performance and the talent and love of Jesus he shared with us at the Mother’s Day Celebration was absolutely, unequivocally astounding.

Observing the audience reactions post-performance, it was clear that no one felt that they had gotten anything less than the best.  All the performances were top-notch, the card was loaded with some of the world’s top gospel stars, and there were no weak links, no slow-downs, no delays, no glitches.  Just nearly three solid hours of the very best in American gospel music in every way, shape and form.

The tour went on to Hampton, Virginia on Saturday, May 7 and Baltimore, Maryland on Mothers’ Day, Sunday, May 8.

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Over to you

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