Post Stellar Awards Reception
Fresh from the sights and sounds of the 16th Annual Stellar Awards taping, the masses swarmed from the Atlanta Civic Center to the Westin Peachtree Ballroom, in hopes of getting a seat for the post-award reception. Rumor had it that the room would be packed, and that more people received invitations than there were available seats.
The three of us at GospelFlava.com scurried to grab our places so we could be sure to witness the awesome time that Verity Records, EMI Gospel, Word Records, Gospel Today, Church's Chicken and Dexterity Sounds had planned for all.
Though the line-up was hot, the evening was clearly not about show. Husband and wife duo Tim Reid and Daphne Maxwell-Reid hosted, with Reid quipping, "You Gospel people sure like to stay up late. I'm going to check that you're all in church tomorrow morning". But church was first to be had that night.
Bishop T.D. Jakes began by introducing a sneak peek presentation of the upcoming HBO film, Boycott which dramatically relives the historical Montgomery bus boycott. The soundtrack (from EMI Gospel) for the film includes contributions from Darwin Hobbs, Karen Clark-Sheard, TD Jakes and the Potter's House Choir, Brent Jones and the TP Mobb, Montrel Darrett, Aaron Neville and Lamar Campbell and Spirit of Praise.
Verity Records presented the City of Princeville, NC with a check for $12,000 to help rebuild the destruction that resulted from Hurricane Floyd floods in the Fall of 1999. This historical black community was destroyed when it was literally immersed in the flood waters. VP Jazzy Jordan noted that Verity had committed to continue to contribute by donating a portion of forthcoming proceeds of the WOW Gospel 2001 project to the city as well.
In keeping with the WOW theme of the evening, honors and plaques were also given to those who made the WOW Gospel 2000 such a success.
Then the music hit, and hit hard. Up first was Tonéx and his crew. With conservatively styled fashions, he came out looking more like Anthony Williams II, but in keeping with his unspoken motto, he quickly flipped the script and gave us all that is Tonéx.
Preceded by his on screen retro-styled video for "Personal Jesus", his set began with that same hit. The thing about this artist is that he never does something the same way twice. And we're not talking subtleties here. On "Personal Jesus" for example, he started out real slow, amping up to sensational reggae-filled dynamics that demonstrated this group's ability to hang with dancehall's finest.
The set moved on to include retakes of "Why" and "U Send Me". There was jazz in the mix, hip hop in the air, and supreme guitar licks from Gabe Terrado throughout. Backing vocalists Damion Willis, Fetrice Ewell and Tonéx's beautiful wife Yvette, hollahed us into oblivion as the crew went higher and higher and higher.
Closing it out was "Restoration". Telling the people that "some think this song is for the backslider, but even we in the church need to be restored", it was a more than fitting end to Tonéx's ministering that night. With perhaps the best live performance one could ever witness, he gave it his all.
When we tore our eyes from the stage, we saw Kirk Franklin glued to the floor, watching and witnessing. And just in case we weren't sure, we spotted Tonéx afterward backstage, laid out face down on the floor. He was apparently as overwhelmed by the move of God that had just taken place as we were.
I was ready to go after that, but oh I'm so glad I didn't follow the many that thought it was over. New Direction came in and straight rocked the house. Not showing an ounce of fatigue only hours after their Stellar Award stage appearance with Shirley Caesar, these denim-clad and fresh-faced youths out of Chicago carried the torch of quality that is marking the transition of choirs of old into the new millennium.
With an electric sound and energy, vocals tighter than the Nutty Professor in that little sports car, and a blazing band, New D absolutely continues to raise the bar. We've all seen groups that were all about show, but there was a distinct difference here. Even heralding animated directing and club dance moves, there was no mistaking their only purpose. It brings to mind a comparison to the 'little drummer boy' who gave all he had to offer, however inappropriate the masses thought his offering was. More than one witness saw Mary (of Mary Mary) have no choice but to march to the front to throw her large white dinner napkin at this choir force.
The audience responded. For New D it's all about worship, and they truly laid it all on the altar ALL of it. By the time they finished there was an Electric Slide line going on in front of the stage, and young and old joined them in their time to "Lift Him Up". And if you think that sounds strange, just trust me when I tell you it was all about Him you had to be there.
Catch more visuals below, including two bonus mini-movie clips of Tonéx and New Direction in the right margin: