Elysa Adams, 6, was at her first concert Sunday night at the Majestic Theatre.
"She loves Kirk Franklin," said her mother, April Adams.
The kindergartner was excited as she talked between bites of popcorn. Myron Butler and other singers from The Potter's House had left the stage about five minutes earlier. She sat right up and announced "Wanna Be Happy" as her favorite song. And then she smiled, and sang it.
She wasn't the only one.
The audience was more like a choir under the direction of a hoarser-by-the-minute Franklin.
The impresario and company galloped through "20 Years in One Night," the apt name for this tour, his first solo one with concert promotion giant Live Nation.
Franklin played many other roles during the show.
Here are seven of the faces of Kirk Franklin:
Joker: With a classic Broadway kick step here and a Stomp-worthy Broadway high jump there, Franklin was all over the place. He even went into the audience to take requests. "What's your favorite Kirk Franklin song, he asked one man. Then he noticed the man was looking at his cellphone: "Are you looking me up?! Let me see what you're doing." He moved to the next person on the row. When that person couldn't give him a song, saying, "I'm learning all of them tonight," Franklin said, "Who are y'all with?" He walked back down the row, staring each one of them down. After finally getting some suggestions, he went back to the stage for a full version of "Melodies From Heaven." Let's not talk about when he sang, "Anyone can be saved, even Kanye," right before sitting at the piano to start "Pray for Me."
Showman: Indefatigable should be Franklin's middle name. At one point, he jumped five feet into the air during "Hosanna." He never stopped moving, making it hard for anyone else to settle down. Folks who paid good money for seats had to be asked by him to actually use them. His performance was inundated with influences as far-flung as James Cleveland and The Time, with a hefty dose of hip-hop. And then, full-on gospel tilt. Really.
Homeboy: He knew what this crowd, which he named "Hometown," wanted. And daresay, needed, judging from the arms raised to the heavens. At 9:13 p.m., Franklin had warned those who didn't know, "Hometown! Guess what?! That was just the first half. ... Ain't nobody tell you to wear them shoes. You know you're gonna get your party on at a Kirk Franklin concert." It was 10:37 before little Elysa heard her favorite song. Supported by her mother, she stood on the arm of the seat as she sang along.
Taskmaster: Not only did Franklin run his singers through their paces and keep the band on a tight rope, he demanded excellence from his audience, too. This show was a participatory sport. During "Silver and Gold," Franklin played director for the audience. Everyone in the crowd had to have had choral experience. It was an athletic feat, but they kept up, and so did he. During "My World Needs You," which became a showcase for a couple of the singers, he kept moving himself, going up the stairs to monitor the keyboards.
Motivator: He populated the stage with performers other than his usual group. Butler helped warm up the crowd. During intermission, Shaun Martin played the piano. And these weren't people Franklin was trying to put on. Martin, whose first and latest solo CD is called Seven Summers, has won four Grammys, a few of them with Franklin, and played with legends such as Chaka Khan and scene stealers such as Snarky Puppy. He even gave the men in the audience a pep talk, using himself as an example, and encouraged them to sing along during "Intercession." He also asked for help for children from the stage, giving chances to meet him backstage to anyone who donated. That led to a line after the show almost as long as the line to get in.
Uniter: Franklin walks the line between Contemporary Christian Music and Gospel so deftly that it can sneak up on you. Pay attention, CCM artists, because he's coming for your audience. The harmonies in "My Life, My Love, My All" are rooted in gospel but the lyrics are most certainly of the Sunday morning praise and worship team variety. Teens in T-shirts, children standing on seats and a grown, diverse audience were all standing up, hands outstretched to the sky, singing along with the call and response. And concertgoers were greeted in the lobby with bumper stickers for 94.9 FM (KLTY) and flyers for "Third Day Together With Steven Curtis Chapman" on April 30. How's that for crossing the aisle?
He even had complete strangers confessing "everything you're saying goodbye to" after a heartfelt and moving "Imagine Me."
Story teller: He has an amazing story, and he’s not shy about sharing it: From being given up; adopted at 4 by a 64-year-old woman in Fort Worth; facing eviction even as one of his albums was being released; succumbing to writers' block during "the most uncomfortable difficult financial time" of his career in 2015. He thanked his wife, Tammy Franklin: “I’ve been saved twice, first by Jesus and then by you.” He thanked the audience: "You didn't have to support me from album one ... album two, album three. You stuck with me ... I'm a product of you. Every time you see me, you see you. Dallas, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, DeSoto, Duncanville, wherever you're from, thank you."