HERE TO WORSHIP: The lively concert featured performances by Downswell (above), D-Murphy and 'Kiki' Sheard.
By the time we got to Hope Gardens at minutes after seven last Monday, D-Murphy was well into his set on-stage, warming up the crowd for the night’s main attractions who were waiting in the wings to be called on by Nadine Blair, an emcee whose vim, vigour and humour made the atmosphere all the more inviting.
Such was the scene we encountered when we arrived to join the praise party in full swing at the Kingston Jerk & Gospel Festival, an increasingly popular event that has now firmly etched its place on the local gospel calendar. Monday’s renewal, falling on National Heroes’ Day, drew a fair-sized crowd, but the overall package had entertainment, empowerment and inspiration galore.
D-Murphy’s high-energy performance made way for the likes of the reflective Joseph Emmanuel (“Reggae Worship”; “Inna Di Morning”; “Wait”) and Chozenn, who switched up the tempo with songs like “Jesus Party”, “More” and “God Love You Innuh,” the catchy anthem that first got him noticed by gospel lovers.
As expected, the light-blue-clad Kevin Downswell ignited the venue the moment he landed centrestage to open with renditions of “Good News” and “He Saved Me/I Got Jesus,” during which he gave his backup vocalists some well-deserved shine.
“It’s Already Done”, “Nobody Loves Me The Way You Do” and “No Matter the Circumstances” followed, as did “Goodbye World,” which never fails to incite electric jumpin-wavin’ excitement. Things got prayerful again with “If It’s Not You” before the powerful strains of “Stronger” brought his set to a memorable close.
Then it was time to hear from the night’s international headliner Kierra ‘Kiki’ Sheard, the second-generation songstress (daughter of Karen Clarke Sheard) whose short-but-spicy set combined inspiring testimony with powerful singing. Rocking a breezy white top, jeans and gorgeous shiny hair, Kierra had her attentive audience swaying to her songs like “You are My Desire” and “Indescribable”, which incited a lively sing-a-long.
In between songs, she shared wised-up food-for-thought nuggets like, “Don’t let your mountain intimidate you; tell your mountain about your God.” Her take on praise-and-worship standards like “There Is None Like You” sequed nicely into more motivational pep talk – and the song we’d been waiting for all night, “God in Me”, her Grammy-nominated smash with Mary Mary that has always affirmed for us the power of a good gospel song to excite and enlighten.