February 19, 2008
Nokia Live Theater
Better than: Crown Royal on ice.
Some performers rely upon (or even just incorporate) backup dancers, pyrotechnics, a deejay or a visual montage on the big-screen displays. The funny thing about Jill Scott is that she doesn’t use or need them—nor is all of that fanfare missed. She, teetering on her platform, donning designer stripper shoes, her red-brown afro aglow under the lights, is enough fanfare by herself. So much so that some of us spent an hour trying to make it simply from the MacArthur Boulevard exit on I-30 to the will call window. (I had to ride a shuttle from remote parking, people!) There are three words to describe that kind of crowd turnout: Prince. Rogers. Nelson.
North Philly Jilly is worth it though. Ms. Scott welcomed us all into the private recesses of her life for two hours, on a scenic ride through her three-album catalog. The songs weren’t in blocks relative to release, so I sincerely appreciated that I didn’t have to wait until the end to hear the joints that I only identify by hook and track number. She makes the type of albums that get into the CD player and live there, track listing be damned.
Scott was at her best pouring out unashamedly lascivious moments during “Cross My Mind” and “Honey Molasses.” The ladies of the audience already resonated during “Crown Royal,” but her hilarious pantomime, holding an invisible cup which she sniffed, swilled, licked, tasted and shared with a zealous fan in the front row was definitely a highlight of the evening. The chicken-heads nearby waved their daiquiris in the air and squawked with delight. They let off horror flick-worthy screams and chants of “yeah, yeeeaah, yeeeaaaaahhhh!” and “mmmmmhmm, yeah gurrrrl.” But that’s the kind of effect Jill Scott has on women. Take for example her real-talk segment before she began crooning her thoughts surrounding her divorce. She sweetly explained that even though some call life a bitch, they’re good friends and she takes the good with the bad. She didn’t expect to be a divorced person. (“Oh you neeeither, gurrrl,” rang from behind me.)
Shortly after the “he ain't shit” set, Scott reminded us that she still believes in love and encouraged the couples in the audience to acknowledge each other with a heartfelt rendition of “I Need You.” Sitting next to another writer I peered around enviously since my man was at work and couldn’t join me at the concert.
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The thing I loved about the show is that just when you thought you heard your favorite song of hers, she’d sing another one. “Golden” brought the crowd out of introspection and to its feet and segued into the hard-stomping, shoulder-brushing “Hate On Me.” I wasn’t a fan of that song at first, but some things are just better in person.
Through her performance she smiled, scatted, wailed, giggled and even looked close to crying a few times. It was obvious that she’s not just a professional, but she truly does love to sing. -- Quia Querisma
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Jill somewhat reminds me of a rock-soul singing friend of mine.
Random Detail: She performed a little bit of “Stakes Is High” by De La Soul.