Kanye hosts Sunday Service in ‘God’s Country’

Posted 9/22/19

Cody’s newest celebrity resident brought gospel music to town on Sunday morning in a quickly scheduled performance of his weekly Sunday Service.

Although news of his Sunday Service at the …

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Kanye hosts Sunday Service in ‘God’s Country’


Cody’s newest celebrity resident brought gospel music to town on Sunday morning in a quickly scheduled performance of his weekly Sunday Service.

Although news of Kanye West's Sunday Service at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West only broke on Friday evening, hundreds of fans from around the country — including a strong contingent from the Big Horn Basin — lined up for hours for a chance to witness the concert. Long before sunrise, a crowd began to gather at the guarded gate to the center’s Powwow Garden.

By the time Bryer Benham, a student at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, and several of his classmates arrived at the venue they had already been through an adventure.

“We got pulled over on the way here and then slept in the van. And we had to shower with bottled water in the lot,” Benham said.

Despite the inconveniences on the road to Cody, the group — all wearing West’s shoe creations called Yeezy’s (priced at more than $300) — found itself all alone at the front of the line hours before anyone else arrived.

“I love Kanye,” Benham said. “It’s all worth it.”

West has been holding private Sunday Services since January, often attended by celebrities like Brad Pitt, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom and Dave Chapelle. There have only been a handful of public appearances by the 80-person choir before he flew them all in to Cody for Sunday’s free service.

The scene in line was a mix of fans of Kanye’s rap music, those seeking to get a glimpse of West, and families — many bringing children — to hear the gospel music on a beautiful Sunday morning. West’s popular song “Monster” blared from a portable stereo while the line grew. Many of those in line sang along, word for word, while others grimaced as very naughty words filled the air.

“It’s nice to see something different around here, but it does make certain people a little uncomfortable,” said Levi Meyer, a spokesperson for the Center of the West.

Jaclyn Haire of Powell stood in line for two hours to get a front row spot next to dozens of singers in the choir and a decent view of West.

“I wanted to see it,” she said. “It’s like the biggest thing that’s ever happened in Cody.”

The Sunday Service at Buffalo Bill Center of the West followed West’s purchase of Monster Lake Ranch, located south of Cody, earlier this month.

Haire, an elementary education student at Northwest College, said she was familiar with West’s music and enjoyed the presentation.

“I’m so proud of the community and [those visiting] coming together to worship,” she said.

By the time the gate opened at 11:30 a.m. — about a half-hour later than advertised — the line wound around the the museum property with more than 1,000 waiting for their piece of turf at the standing-room-only event.

Starting around noon, West pulled up in a black Ford truck and entered the garden to cheers. Choir director Jason White led from a platform in the center of the choir, with the crowd surrounding them in every direction. At one point, White called Wyoming “God’s country.”

“... If I had a view like this to look at every day, I don’t know what I would do,” White told the crowd, thanking area communities “for having us.”

Dressed in a yellow hoodie, a custom Wyoming Sunday Service sweatshirt and sweatpants, West took the microphone to sing one song but never took center stage.

The choir — also wearing customized Wyoming sweatshirts — sang more than a dozen songs with West joining in on the drums midway through the performance. Songs on the set list included traditional hymns, at least one West original and some pop songs repurposed as worship music; for instance, the No Doubt classic “Don’t Speak,” became “Lord Speak.”

Accompanied by two pianos and a brass section, the Sunday Service thrilled the large crowd, made up mostly of young people.

“Children are hungry for it. They’re eager for it,” said Kema Jamal, who has produced rap concerts and has a dance company in Casper. She hopes this opens up the area for music rarely heard in the rural areas of the cowboy state.

West’s Sunday performance capped a busy weekend at the Center of the West. Friday brought the annual Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, followed by the center’s annual Patron’s Ball on Saturday night. As usual, the black tie gala drew some big name guests of its own — including former U.S. Supreme Court Judge Anthony Kennedy — though with less public fanfare.

A large tent was set up for the art sale and caterers were staged on the center’s grounds for Saturday night’s ball, apparently leading the celebrity news website TMZ to mistakenly report those were part of the preparations for West.

At the end of Sunday performance, choir members offered high fives, blessings and thank yous to the Cody crowd as they filed out. Many of West’s fans followed him as he exited the venue, reaching out to touch him — and to thank him for bringing the Sunday Service to his new home away from home.

(Tribune editors CJ Baker and Tessa Baker contributed reporting.)