Each weekend in October, thousands of members of the Latter Day Saints church congregate in Salt Lake City, Utah, from around the world for what is known as The General Conference weekend. It’s typically rather boring save for the relatively tame counter-protests nearby. But this weekend, another church service took place just blocks from the Mormon temple (the headquarters of the Latter Day Saints church) when Kanye West performed one of his impromptu Sunday Services at the semi-abandoned outdoor Gateway Mall.
The hastily-planned service was announced last minute, late Friday afternoon, and had many residents wondering if it was real. (The mayor’s office confirmed it just before Friday at 5 pm.) According to the Deseret News, Salt Lake City only approved permits for the event on Friday and the Gateway itself only learned about the event on Friday afternoon.
As for the performance itself? It had its moments: the good, the bad, and the utterly bizarre.
First of all, West’s gospel choir, The Sunday Service Collective, was fabulous, rivaling the nearby Mormon Tabernacle Choir despite performing in a literal mall (one more known for vagrants and homeless than world-class musical performances). When West finally did come on stage (over an hour and half after the performance began), he seamlessly harmonized with them.
Unfortunately, West’s incredibly talented singers were limited by their surroundings and an incredibly frustrated crowd. The venue was so small and West’s stage was so low that only about 15% of the estimated 7,000-10,000 attendees could even see him. (On any given day, the number of people in the entire Gateway complex is well under a thousand.) This led to a tense situation with a few minor scuffles and people climbing on whatever they could to get even a slight glimpse of West. Large trees also obscured the views of many of those who were lucky enough to get a higher vantage point.
He ranted about bipolar multiple personality disorder and serving many gods (god of ego, god of money, god of pride, god of fame) before comparing himself to a chef who “can only cook for one single God, can only serve one God,” and likening serving multiple gods to a chef trying to serve multiple meals at multiple houses.
He also ranted against the negativity of social media. He then sang the praises of the Republican party, lending his support to Trump, causing the crowd to erupt in simultaneous cheers and cries of “F*** Trump!”
He concluded by thanking Utah and shouting out the names of various Salt Lake City suburbs before making a quiet exit. The Deseret News summed up the ending as such: “People floated away, confused and a little let down.”
West’s musical and spoken word performance itself did showcase the range and versatility that first made him famous, but his message remains unclear. What also remains unclear is when his upcoming album, “Jesus is King,” will be released.