All words: Robb Scott
All photos: Alyssa Stone
Before I go into how Philly’s soulful diva turned out the Verizon Center on Sunday night, let me acquaint you if you aren’t already familiar. Who Is Jill Scott? Well, she’s Beautifully Human, and she’s The Real Thing… her words and sounds are like The Light of the Sun. If that went over your head, don’t fret—hopefully these words and sounds photos will play as a more thorough introduction.
What was dubbed, The Summer Block Party, Jill Scott toted along fellow soul crooner Anthony Hamilton and late 80s/early 90s R&B group Mint Condition. In keeping with the theme of a neighborhood jam fest, MC Doug E Fresh played hype man and host, while DJ Jazzy Jeff spun a time warp of tracks from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. From the jump, it was made clear that if one was holding the expectation that they would be able to remain seated, they were certainly at the wrong party.
The combo of DJ Jazzy Jeff and Doug E Fresh was such a winner—they provided the lasting nostalgia for the predominantly 30 and over crowd. I was seriously in awe of how good both men looked to be in their 40s; it was as if while time past, the only things that changed about them were their muscularity.
With Mint Condition, they certainly inspired the crowd to revisit their youth, in whatever capacity that may be. With arms waving and hips shaking, the house was certainly filled with the jovial emotions of a family BBQ. I tip my hat to the Saint Paul, Minnesota bred quintet; they showed up not as openers, but instead with just as much energy as a headlining act. Despite the disjointedness of their setlist (which was expected, given the span of their career and their evolution), they provided a decent taste of their musical catalogue.
On the other side of that coin of opening acts was Anthony Hamilton; heavy on the talent, kind of light on the stage presence. He performed only a few lesser known songs amidst his most notable, taking a more slow-groove approach to his set. I can’t say he really did much to make his time on stage seem memorable—it’s his voice that really makes a lasting impression… as Jill Scott called it, his vocals are like “Chocolate Cement.”
Speaking of Miss Jill Scott, she came strong with her “You Betta Recognize,” Grown and Sexy attitude. This woman does for me with Soul what Beyonce does for me with Pop music—she is such a confident, pro-woman, humble, enthusiastic, unique, original stage performer. When she sings, she puts behind it all her emotion; so much so that the she moves beyond the lyrics, and instead drifts into some other realm. With Scott being more than just a songstress, but also a spoken word poet (who’s headlined the White House Poetry Night back in May) and an MC, she had more to say than just what her songs could convey.
Her career has found her decent amount of triumphs and struggles, and her music acts as a narration of sorts. Her set came off more like a medley of her best songs from her past four albums—so perfect, as she garners new fans at every new album/major turning point in her life. In other words, from Day One fans to those who are just being introduced, there wasn’t a silent fan in the venue.
While there is much positive to say about Jill Scott, it has to be noted that there was a level of hurriedness felt by her set. Though a 21 song set-list is a pretty decent amount of time to be on stage, recordings of her live shows will reveal a much different experience. Much has changed for her with her most recent album, most notably her break from her label—the attitude she sang even her more emotive songs, was more liberated joy than impassioned diary entries. What I enjoy most about this woman are her runs, she can rival the best of them; unfortunately, in keeping with the light feel of the Block Party, she took a more comical approach to them instead. She did impress me, however, when she took a moment to go off on an operatic aria in Spanish… I got chills.
Jill Scott is a woman that delivers and if this woman still remains a stranger to you, I highly suggest you get familiar, like now—there’s no excuse not to. Her entire seven album (four studio, two live, one collaborative) catalogue is fully available on Spotify (throwing mad shade your way if you have yet to sign up for the service) as well as iTunes.