I had no intention of writing about the Kanye West’s “Nebuchadnezzar An Opera” experience. But it was an EXPERIENCE.
There I was, my 40 year old self, a woman who grew up with 90s hiphop, now a conservative mom to preschoolers, hiking up the hill of the Hollywood bowl with a recovering sprained ankle and a hot tea.
Like many of you, I heard about Kanye’s conversion to faith and seen videos of the Sunday Service.
I was intrigued to say the least.
I came to faith nearly 2 decades ago, October 8th, 2004 to be exact. As much as I would love to share my personal come to Jesus experience, this is not why I am here.
In this time, we’ve attended countless Christian concerts, conferences, and special engagements. We’ve attended broadway plays, off broadway plays, musicals, symphonies, and even a few secular concerts.
In the hundreds of events we’ve attended over the decades, I’ve NEVER encountered such a DIVERSE crowd of people together to share a single experience. There were people from ALL walks of life, all ethinic backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Boomers, Milleniuals, Gen Zers, Gen Xers, and even many children gathered at the Hollywood Bowl this evening.
We arrived right on time and parked in the the Hollywood Bowl parking area. Much to my surprise this was “stacked” parking and our car was trapped until the end of the concert.
There was an excitement in the air. We finally made it to our seats at about 4:30pm. We were not extremely concerned about our late arrival since there were still large crowds filling the concession stands. We chatted and enjoyed the weather. Then another 30 minutes passed and another and another.
It was now 6:00pm, our car was still trapped and we had no idea what was going on with the show. From time to time, there was a little commotion on the stage. The audience was becoming restless and chanting “Kanye”.
I on the other hand, was attempting to secure an exit. How could I get home to my precious children before midnight. This was not the evening I had planned and I was becoming very anxious about the unpredictability of it all.
Then finally around 6:05pm lights, sound and the stage begins to fill with people clothed in all white, a signature look of the Sunday Service choir.
I breath a sigh of relief as an end is in sight. The air is now chilly and we are bundled up and ready to get this show on the road.
The music started, it was powerful and completely surrounded every area of the arena. We were captivated by the beauty of it all. Then a man in all purple entered the stage.
His presence stood out from the rest and he screamed then he screamed again and again. The anguish and suffering of the screams was palpable.
Just the day before, I opened my bible and read the entire book of Daniel. I wanted to refresh myself with the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. I was curious to see how this show would tell the story.
Then the music slowed and it started. Kanye’s voice was heard as he read from the Bible. It was not his interpretation of the story, as I had anticipated, but it was clear bible reading as the people on stage illustrated the story.
There I was in what felt like a sold out crowd listening to the book of Daniel read to thousands and thousands of people. It was surreal.
Then the music changed, and the king, the only person dressed in purple, rolled out a large golden image and one by one the crowd began to bow.
It was about this time that I started seeing a few people leave. I wondered was it the late start, or the content that caused them to leave early. I will never have the answer to this question but still I wonder.
The opera continued with the 3 Hebrew boys refusing to bow down to the golden image and then being thrown into the fiery furnace.
And to a crowd of thousands the words were spoken …
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25
We were in awe. Would the crowd understand and receive this message? Would they hear how these 3 young men stood against the culture of their time for God?
Again, we can only wonder.
The story continued with Daniel interpreting another dream. The foretelling of the fall of the king, his fall into madness and his story of redemption and restoration. All read from the Bible without wavering in the story.
The entire story was told in a little over one hour. It is true, we waited 2 hours for a show that was just a little over one hour. But I can’t help but think of how in the days of old, priest stood before crowds of hundreds and read from the scrolls.
They read and the crowds listened. This night, Kanye read and the crowds watched in amazement as the story unfolded before their eyes.
From time to time, we heard applauds and cheers when God showed up and for those who are familiar with the story, it was an imaginative and beautifully artistic way of illustrating the life of king Nebuchadnezzar.
For others, not familar with the story, we wonder, did they receive the message? Restoration and redemption can be found in God.
Again, we wonder.
But there is one thing that is certain. The reach of Kanye West is far beyond what I have seen in other events. Thousands of people from all walks of life gathered to see Kanye, who for possibly the first time in his career, put on a concert where the star of the show was the story and not him.
Although, he narrated the story, we did not see his face until the final bow. Say what you want, think what you want, but there is a transformation taking place the hearts and lives of people all around the world, Kanye included.