"Rocking Review: 'The Reverend' Delivers a Spirited Blend of Gospel and Rock" - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

"Rocking Review: 'The Reverend' Delivers a Spirited Blend of Gospel and Rock"


"Rocking Review: 'The Reverend' Delivers a Spirited Blend of Gospel and Rock"

The Reverend

"The Reverend" is not everyone’s proverbial cup of tea, but for those who love gospel-rock, this winner of the DOC NYC Audience Award and recipient of the Best Domestic Feature Award at the Thin Line Festival (2023) is a perfect gem of a find.

The documentary follows gospel-rock icon and activist Reverend Vince Anderson, who, after entering seminary, dropped out to follow his second calling: music. With his band, The Love Choir, he has played a now-legendary weekly show for over twenty years. Reconnecting with his faith and using his intensely soulful music, he began to preach a type of spirituality that is open to all, meets people where they are, and moves everyone who sees him play. Reverend Vince is also deeply involved in social justice, working with other faith leaders around the country to build inclusive communities. Featuring Questlove and an ensemble of eccentric musicians, "The Reverend" is both a rocking concert film and an intimate portrait of Reverend Vince’s inspiring personal and spiritual life.

In stepping into the subject matter, veteran cinematographer and observational filmmaker Nick Canfield was inspired after attending Reverend Vince’s weekly concert for a few years. He was always amazed at the power of his performances.

The Reverend works best as an exploration of community, a theme closely intertwined with religion. Anderson defies convention as a religious figure; opting to forsake seminary school, a rebel of sorts.  

He pursues music over the traditional path of ministry. Rather than being appointed to a church, he emerges as a minister through the endorsement of his community. 

Reflecting on the early stages of his musical journey, Anderson notes the revelation that "drunk people like gospel music" while performing in bars, emphasizing the importance of utilizing one's talents where people congregate. Through consistently captivating and involving audiences week after week, Anderson earns his role as a community-chosen minister, rather than one imposed upon them.

“It wasn’t just the music that blew me away; it was the feeling of community in the room. Here, in the most unlikely of places, a bar in Brooklyn, people from all walks of life were meeting to have a spiritual experience,” said Nick Canfield. “Reverend Vince’s music, ‘Dirty Gospel’ as he calls it, is a unique high-energy type of gospel music - he rains sweat on the keyboard as he pounds the keys, wades into the crowd to embrace them, climbs around on the bar, and has been known for getting naked on stage. His band, The Love Choir, is made up of incredibly talented musicians from well-known bands. So few residencies are left in the music world, and this one has become an institution - every week for over 25 years. People come to the iconic Union Pool from all over the world to see Reverend Vince play, and they are enthralled by his kaftan-clad stage presence and his Americana music. I knew I had to bring these incredible performances to a larger audience.”

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