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The Read warned me that not all of Jill’s remixes to old favorites I was going to rock with. However, whether she was preaching to the choir at NJPAC or starting a dance party, Jill Scott made sure your price of admission was worth it.
The Opening Act(s)
Staceyanne Chin – 20 Minute Set
Um, let me say this. Staceyann Chin, at first, doesn’t seem like the best opening act for Jill Scott. If only because, at least when I think of Jill Scott, I don’t think politics and a huge amount of cursing. Granted, Jill is a bit of an around the way girl, and can, as Erykah Badu said: “[Turn] this tea and incense […] into Colt 45 and Newports if need be” but that isn’t her default. Jill is more so sensual, definitely about empowerment, but not much with the expletives.
Staceyanne however, she is a Jamaican, queer, and militant. Something which you’ll grow to love. For with her 2 pieces, that I can remember, she mixes the idea of activism with being proud of her culture and people. She presents the types of joking commentary which tickled the Newark audience and her modernized version of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was definitely worth the clapping, snaps, and standing applause it got.
To the point, it is easy to forget she isn’t some new poet. This isn’t Jill putting you onto someone new in the game. Home girl was on Def Poetry Jam back in the day.
Jill Scott came in with “Be Ready” and went right into “Golden” and set the vibe off right. Her new rendition was different enough that it made it fresh, but not so different you were like “Why is she ruining her own classics?” And as she went into “Whatever, Whatever,” “A Long Walk,” “Prepared” and more, so came this idea that sooner or later Jill Scott needs to turn her music into an ABBA styled musical.
For, lest we forget, Jill is a story teller. So unlike if you go see, say The Pretty Reckless, in between songs we aren’t just hearing a shout out to the city she is in. She is talking to the audience, prepping the vibe for what is to come. Making it so when you hear “Crown Royal” you are in the groove. So when you get the thump of the live music, which she points out excessively, it changes the rhythm of your heart. Perhaps opens your soul to be taken in by the mood Jill is setting for you.
But of course, what is a Jill Scott concert with not just addressing love but sex. Something she gets very theatrical about. Be it the way she plays with the microphone or when she makes herself seemingly hot and bothered singing about it.
However, she lets it be known, with “Making You Wait” that she isn’t necessarily for just giving it up. She tells the audience that you got to check if he crazy first. You got to have faith, with effort, to find the one worthy, and then she walks us into “The Way.”
Though, it isn’t just slow songs and things like that you should expect. After a certain point, she decides it is time to jam. From “It’s Love” to E.U.’s “Doing The Bump,” Prince’s “Sexy M.F.” to the last song “Gimme” she brings the people to their feet and jams with her band. Thus giving us about an hour, maybe an hour and ten minutes, of Jill running through her hits.
I haven’t been to a huge amount of concerts1, but let me tell you it is so much better when there is a real transition between songs than a shout out to the crowd, silence, and then next song. For, like said, it preps you for the groove of the next song. And while Jill’s songs pretty much focus on self-love, longing, and joy, these emotions may be similar but aren’t the same. They each require you being in a different head space and I loved Jill helped us to get there. Especially through giving short monologues, whether they were scripted or truly personal, that had a message. The kind which, again, makes you believe the discography of Jill Scott would make an excellent musical.
Be it in her messages or performance, Jill was up there getting into it. Be it when she was using the microphone in a phallic way or she, after going on about sex and singing about some good ass love making, had to fan herself. Fan herself from head to even crotch. But, with this, she found a way to keep it light. Which is what she mostly did. Though “Cross My Mind” was on the set list, alongside “Slowly, Surely,” it never touched the point of “My Love” and songs like it getting pulled out.
It Was Only An Hour and Forty Minutes Combined
Here is the thing, Jill Scott isn’t a new artist. She is someone with a discography going back 17 years and covering 5 albums. This isn’t even counting her covers and the songs she was featured in. Much less music from compilation albums. So for there to only be 13 songs, I don’t know, it just seemed like there could have been more.
Especially considering that it isn’t like she sung every song fully to the album length. So, considering how she mixed quite a few of the songs, she could, and perhaps should have, mashed up a few together. But maybe I’m just bitter because I rarely spend $100+ on anything which doesn’t last me awhile.
On The Fence
Why Did She Mix The Song Like That?
For some songs she does, like “Slowly, Surely” it is hard to tell if she reinterpreted the song, remixed it, or is just using a part she needs to connect to what she was just talking about. With that, if you are the type coming to hear something close to the CD version, you may get disappointed. For while, often, Jill sticks to that early on, with just adding some ad libs and runs, after a certain point you may start questioning if she is singing a song you don’t know or remixed something beyond recognition.
Overall: Mixed (Video Recording)
In the mid set I’m in currently, seeing a Jill Scott concert is sort of like a bucket list thing. Something you do once but doesn’t seem worth doing repeatedly. If only because, while you get the excitement of seeing this person whose music has been the soundtrack of your life, now it is a shared experience. Now you are dealing with people who take away that connection a bit. You, internally, are building hype for “your song” which isn’t sung remotely the way you know it. For Jill revitalized it to make it so it isn’t boring to sing. Which you can rock with but it doesn’t hit you like you thought it would. And then, with the whole set just being an album length, around an hour, it leaves you wondering if the price tag was worth it.
Hence the Mixed label for while I still love Jill Scott, and surely will support her future endeavors, seeing her on stage live wasn’t all that. I could have got my life just as much with a big screen TV and streaming the performance. Likely for more than half the price. Which, in the long run, is perhaps the major factor here. Jill does present herself as an entertainer, but the thump of the music, her wails digging into your skin and traveling through your veins to your heart, isn’t done in such a way you can say “This was worth $104.40.”
And while I get that artist have to make a living somehow, especially in an age where album sales can’t support them, I find it hard to justify the price tag. Especially when you consider other shows, be it Broadway or artist who do longer sets, who hover around the same price tag. So, if you got money to spare, I’d say check out Jill Scott. Otherwise, buy her live concert or live vicariously through the million and one people who could not be perturbed from filming the event. Then buy a T-shirt to show your support.