JILL SCOTT @ Metropolis

By Kelly Belfo - After Noon Roots - 03/15/2005

Jill Scott’s Big, Beautiful Tour

Soul Diva Sings Straight From The Heart

MONTREAL – “Who is Jill Scott?” For those who don’t know, she's a winner. Scott, 32, picked up her first Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in February in the category of Best Urban/Alternative Performance, her Beautifully Human track "Cross My Mind" was honored above efforts by fellow nominees the Roots, Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild and N.E.R.D. One of the key breaks in Scott's musical career arrived when she co-wrote the song "You Got Me" with Philadelphia-based hip-hop group the Roots and it reached No. 39 on Billboard magazine's singles chart in 1999. Fusing sophisticated lyrics with impeccable vocal skills, the phenomenally talented songstress Jill Scott is raising the bar for not only her neo-soul contemporaries, such as Erykah Badu and India.Arie, but for singers in all genres.

Jill Scott graced the stage of the Metropolis on March 15, 2005. Beautiful in a blinging silver sequence jacket and denim jeans, neo-soul diva Jill Scott proved a mesmerizing performer with her Big, Beautiful Tour. She did not come alone. The North Philly singer brought a musical army of one dancer, three background singers and eight musicians -- including a percussionist, pianist, drummer, guitarist, bassist, tenor saxophonist, trumpet player and trombonist. She warned the audience that Big, Beautiful "isn't about me, it's about music". Big, Beautiful music ranged from salsa to opera to funk and jazz and all the way back to Scott's signature grooving R&B. Through her music, Scott was vulnerable, sassy, revolutionary, eternally optimistic and everything in between, a formidable, transporting, inspirational presence on stage and an undeniable star in the truest sense of the word. A personal favorite was Scott’s good-natured imitation of a Latino-American woman which kick-started the sizzling “One is the Magic Number”. The audience rose to their feet as they danced and sang along, pointing their index fingers straight up in the air. One of the best remixes was a full-fledged opera version of "He Loves Me," from Who is Jill Scott?. The back of the stage lit up with thousands of deep purple lights. The crowd collectively gasped as Scott held her tummy, gripped her sequined shirt with her fingers and belted out gloriously powerful high notes with a piercing vibrato. Much to the awestruck crowd’s pleasure, Scott's powerfully emotional voice lasted her entire performance without a single crack.

The show focused greatly on being in love and appreciating life, just as her albums do. The two albums, Who is Jill Scott? and Beautifully Human, are full of poetry, soul and thoroughly refreshing honesty. People love Scott because she's candid, secure and, like her voice, powerfully human. She also warned that her shows would never be exactly the same. It was indeed unique, but more than anything, the show was a burst of musical, romantic and comedic passion. In fact, comedy was almost as much a part of the evening as music. "For those of you who haven’t been to one of my shows — I talk". One particularly hilarious tale involved her big-hearted, if slightly dim-witted, cousin trying to save a woman choking on some barbecue. "My cousin ran over to her; he pulled up her skirt, pulled down her panties and licked her left buttock", explained Scott to a roar of laughter then continued, "She was so shocked she spit out her barbecue! My cousin saved her life!".

It wasn’t just the "hind-lick maneuver” storytelling interludes — Scott made charming use of vocal affectation and pantomime to bring her songs to life in three dimensions. Not content to simply sing her songs, she slipped into them like they were clothing, every note and lyric ringing true with a genuine, lived-in quality. Scott kept the tempo up for the first portion of the show, as she and her eight-piece band loosened hips with joyful renditions of songs like the empowerment anthem "Golden". Once she’d put the crowd firmly in her pocket with the dance numbers, she began to mix in the slow, sultry jams that showed off her classic soul pipes. A vocal chameleon, Scott sounds like jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson on "The Fact Is (I Need You)", a song about a super woman who needs the love of her man. She sang it with poise and conviction, sending shivers down my spine. I swear even the men were crying. Her set list saw tunes arranged in thematic sequence, giving the whole evening a sense of unified narrative as on her studio albums. The one-two punch of "Cross My Mind" and "Bedda At Home", a song about appreciating the one you love enough not to cheat, sounded like stage and gospel legend Jennifer Holliday, championed fidelity in the face of fantasy and distraction. Scott’s voice is as strong as her words. Her incredible virtuosity as a singer of jazz, blues, soul, funk, hip-hop and even a little opera is astonishing as is her ability to tell and act out a variety of stories -- both sexy and funny. Her live performance is like no other. Forgive the length, but Jill Scott is an artist worthy of the praise. This poet's work elevates lyrical music; her performance reaffirms the power of the human voice. If Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Sade, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Minnie Riperton had a love child, it would be Jill Scott. Soul music has its singer-songwriter for the modern age; a refreshing break from the highly sampled, synthetic music coming from the world today. For the remainder of the night this socially-aware artist reflected on love, infidelity, feminine power and family. She was romantic and clever in her interaction with the audience, while the music and her poetic talent for moment-etching lyrics were as sharp as ever. Scott is at the top of her game.

Rounding out her show, she belted out for her encore "The Way", a fitting song to end a romantic evening. By the time it was over, the audience were dancing in the aisles and singing along so loudly that Scott became, in effect, a backup singer on her own songs. It was a perfect finish for the magnificent vocalist whose command of the stage, the band and the crowd was as total as it was benevolent. She sincerely and graciously thanked all of her supporters and fans for feelin´ her & showing so much love over this past year. What has always impressed me about Jill Scott while watching her interviews on television and on award shows was her down-to-earth attitude and demeanor. As she stood on that stage, there were tears in her eyes and pure emotion on her. This lady definitely keeps it real. The crowd erupted in enthusiastic applause and cheers. Jill Scott is a force to be reckoned with now and is bringing back the love of being in love, giving love and just enjoying life in its simplest forms. As I walked out the door and into the streets, surrounded by falling snowflakes, still singing, “is it the way - you love - me baby”, with the lingering afterglow following a night of inspired passion, I knew spring had arrived. Jill Scott’s Big, Beautiful was truly one of the best and much-needed shows I’ve been to in a long while. Thank God for Jill Scott.

[Tune in to Afternoon Roots every Saturday 2pm-4pm]