Sunday night at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston, March 13 2005.
Jill Scott and her crack 13-piece band brought the Big Beautiful tour to Boston last sunday night. Ostensibly this was in support of the Beautifully Human album. As it turned out though there was a whole lot of the first album, Who is Jill Scott?, on display.
As I've noted previously, I've seen her twice before, first when she was an unknown in a small club and then 9 months later at a prestigious venue pleasantly surpised by the double platinum plaques and critical acclaim that had started coming her way. She took an extended break from music "to attend to" her mariage but came back in a big way in the past year. She is fresh off winning a Grammy in that category designed for left-of-center artists who won't sell the tens of millions: Cross My Mind won Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
There is no opening act and so she starts with a track appropriately called Warm Up in which a dancer brings some urban ballet flavour to the proceedings. The dance was a little off especially given that the Boston Ballet is right around the corner and that we in the audience were expecting earthy soul. Sadly also, us New Englanders were not be blessed with Common appearing on the same bill, something New Yorkers had enjoyed just days earlier. Still how often does every thinking person's favourite soul sister come to your town?
They start out in church mode with Golden the first single and a welcome radio-friendly return. After the first chorus, they flip it house style (ala East Coast mix). It becomes hyperactive dance music and she wails away in the Gloria Gaynor mould to the accelerating beat. It's a canny way to make sure that the band has woken up and is ready to keep the sunday night audience moving.
The Jill Scott aesthetic is interesting: if you've ever seen the movie Love Jones, you'll know all about it. There's an urban appeal and refreshing down-to-earth quality to her. She walks down the same gritty Philadephia streets. Her tastes are suitably proletarian. It's soul food from cheese steaks to collard greens. Her man is one step above FUBU but is not averse to the bourgeois stylings of Sean John.