Concert goers may have thought they were in Jill Scott's hometown of Philadelphia given the roof-rattling response from the sold-out crowd at the singer's NYC show at Madison Square Garden Friday night. Yeah, she owned it, even beating headliner Maxwell's uproarious reception afterwards.
Outfitted to match her backup band and trio of male singers in an old-school, black-and-white Adidas track jacket -- but adding a female flair by pairing it with bedazzled tights and chunky gold hoop earrings -- the neo-soul songstress, actress and mother passionately rolled through tracks from her three studio albums during her nearly 90-minute set without a misstep.
"Let me give it to ya, baby!" Scott howled from the opening "Gimme" (from her 2001 double-disc live set, Experience: Jill Scott 826+) backed by a sturdy horn section and, yes, two stripper-esque female dancers that gyrated in silhouette behind white screen boxes. But that didn't dilute Scott's performance of her poetry-soaked songbook about love and loss. The operative word for her setlist seemed to be "crazy," with the track "Imsomnia" (with the lyrics "I'm feeling crazy") up next. Her performance of the tune rightfully earned her the thunderous response she kept getting from crowd, especially after she announced, "I'm sweating up here! But getting wet is a good thing!" before stripping off her jacket to reveal a sparkly nameplate belt.
Another "crazy" song was next, the self-analyzing "It's Love," where she roared the now-familiar opening line, "They say I'm crazy, the way you got me open baby!" followed by demands to "give it to me" by way of collard greens, biscuits and black-eyed peas. Yep, the crowd went nuts over that one, too. And then Jill got all crazy again in the aptly-titled next number, "Not Like Crazy," from her last studio opus, 2004's Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Volume 2. That performance ended with Jill Gone Wild, backing her booty into her backup singer and grinding sexually (uh oh, remember what happened last time she got close to someone in her backing band? Just sayin'...).
The singer was again greeted by thunderous applause as she launched into her first megahit, "The Way," with the audience taking over the singing duties for the entire opener. Sex was definitely on her brain, even when she announced a reworking used in her track "Come See Me" by cheekily addressing the men, "My effort is to get you some a little later on...even though you already spent all your money on these expensive ass tickets!"
There were some more surprises in her bag of stage tricks, too. Scott got so emotional she started crying while debuting a new track of her forthcoming album, The Light of the Way, and she got candid midway through the show when addressing the crowd. "Thank you for supporting these last 10 years," she said. "The industry wants you to be skinny all the time, but as you can see I eat!" The tears continued to flow as she broke into "Hear My Call," which she said was written "when things weren't going so well for me."
Things picked way up after that when Scott stunned the crowd hitting intense operatic notes while freestyling on "He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat)" and then launching into a horn-driven version of "Hate On Me," her hits "A Long Walk and "Golden" and even a closing chant lifted from Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City." Scott sealed the successful evening by posing in hardcore hip-hop poses with her posse "to answer all the haters and doubters" -- and I'm sure none were left in the room by then.