There was no room for sanctimony in the sold-out Warner Theatre on Saturday night. Everything in Kirk Franklin’s show, from the gospel artist’s ultra-casual black jogger pants and collared tunic to his pop-lock and milly-rock dances, was meticulously coordinated in defiance of many churches’ stuffy and judgmental reputations. He insisted that the audience members shed their self-consciousness and let loose as well, reassuring them by saying: “It’s okay. You’re at a Kirk concert.” But his reputation preceded him.
It was 1997 when Franklin’s “Stomp (Remix)” exploded with a thundering funkadelic sample and a verse from Salt of famed hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa, and it still propels people from their seats 19 years later. Although it was the penultimate song in Franklin’s set, it’s the tune that determined the show’s tone, just as it also determined the trajectory of his career. He has spent two decades spurning the rules of a genre that historically fashioned itself around a conservative religious aesthetic, effectively bridging the gap between gospel music and youth culture.