Jill Scott in concert!
She was mesmerizing. Besides her spectacular voice and showmanship, I was surprised at her humility and honesty. How many artists are willing to let you look away, to let you spend a LOT of time focused on something other than herself?
This was Jill Scott’s show. Many times – MANY – I realized I hadn’t even looked at her for a long while. The multimedia show was so captivating that I couldn’t look away. She treated us to images from our past and hers, pictures from our shared Black experience; pictures we recognized from back in the day; pictures that immediately catapulted us back to specific moments in history that touched the lives of each one of us personally, prompting cheers and exclamations of joy and memory and even laughter.
Just a tiny sampling: women talking in the back of the bus, street shots from EveryCityNeighborhood USA, Malcolm X’s searing speeches, and dancing from African nations that are at once wild and unusual AND which tie right into the dances we do right now. I shouted out loud several times because I recognized many of those dance videos from my personal online explorations when my ancestry results revealed Cameroon, Congo, Benin and Togo as my heritage. My heart was all joy!
All of this visual magic did not serve as the backdrop to Jill’s music. No, she allowed her music and her lyrics and her unique way of delivering a musical message to serve as the backdrop for our trip into our Black experience. I felt like I’d taken a trip home for the family reunion!
Also dancers – a woman in white with orange/red Bantu knots (I could hardly look away from her!) and a man. They carried us along with them through every dance we’ve ever danced, every romance we’ve ever given ourselves to, and every fight we’ve ever fought. Their technical expertise wasn’t even the point. The point was we all knew all of these feelings personally.
Jill Scott’s humility and graciousness and selflessness and generosity resulted in a concert where I left feeling proud of everything I myself had lived and learned and accomplished, as if I and everyone there had created this show, as if without us there would be no Jill Scott.
At one point I said to my husband, “I never thought I’d come see Jill Scott and spend so much time not looking at Jill Scott!”
Side note: I loved that all three of her backup singers were men. Not better, just a whole different sideline vibe. Swagger. It was … good.
And then there was that “talking to” she gave us. She talked to us, simply talked to us, as if she had called us into the kitchen, told us to sit down and assured us of her love for us … right before the spanking. Jill Scott loves her people. Just like those whoopings you got where somehow you loved your parents more after the sting wore off. She whispered her disappointment in what is happening in so many of our neighborhoods. She reminded us of all we’ve been through, our talents, our struggle, our industriousness, our beauty and then cried out to us from her heart about how we’re getting lost, hurting ourselves and each other and how it pains her to see us suffering so. She implored us with the words, “You can do better. You can be better.”
I can’t imagine we’re not all checking ourselves and taking personal inventory today.
But she didn’t neglect her moments of sheer virtuosity, offering up soulful and spectacular renditions of her greatest hits. Sometimes she let us do the singing because these songs are ours as much as hers now.
The family reunion at the house of the relative who serves up all the food and the music and then sits back and watches everyone enjoy the feast while sharing all their memories.
I left full and satisfied.