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Jill Scott’s ‘Words and Sounds’ Tour is A Retrospective of Black Womanhood

Jill Scott’s Newark, New Jersey stop on her Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. 1 anniversary tour was more than just a show — it was a cleansing revival for her and her dedicated listeners.

Last night, Jill Scott and her dedicated listeners were able to honor their journeys of self-love, self-discovery, and self-forgiveness through the anniversary of the beloved artist’s own words and sounds.

After a three-year delay, Jill Scott has finally been able to take her Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 anniversary tour on the road. Originally released in 2000, the album marked the debut of Jilly from Philly (aside from the 1999 Roots hit single “You Got Me,” which she wrote and originally sang on) and has since become a staple for early 2000s Philly neo-soul. Last night, folks from all age ranges entered the legendary New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark to join in on the celebration with Ms. Scott.

Following opener Adam Blackstone (who used to be Jill’s musical director) and a lively set from fellow Philly native DJ Diamond Kuts, Jersey welcomed Jill with a standing ovation as the night got its start with Who Is Jill Scott?: Vol. 3 album cut “The Real Thing.” Wearing a bedazzled kimono-style robe with a multi-colored portrait of herself on the back (along with a stunning silver two-piece pant set underneath), Jill emerged on the Center’s stage, which resembled a poetry venue or even a Southern juke joint. She prefaced the night by stating that she would be performing her debut album in full, a statement that elicited more than a roaring applause from the already-exhilarated crowd.

As “Jilltro” began, images of Jill from childhood to early adulthood paired with the release of her debut flashed rapidly across the screen, setting the scene for the album’s sonic journey through womanhood. Jill then ran through album cuts “Do You Remember” and “Exclusively” with velvety scatting and conviction, channeling inspirations like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. As she performed, recurring images from iconic Black TV shows and films like Claudine, Barbershop, Poetic Justice, Foxy Brown, and The Wood were displayed in the background. There was a definitive respect the audience had for each other and for the talent. Huge singles like “Gettin’ In The Way” or “The Way” incited crowd participation, with audience members singing along with the Grammy-Award-winning vocalist. When it came to album cuts like “Slowly Surely” and “He Loves Me,” the crowd respectfully admired her gift of singing from their seated positions, taking in Jill’s ethereal presence.

The threaded connection between Jill and her audience came across during some of the show’s best moments. Jill going into an operatic Italian number toward the end of “He Loves Me”; the sensuality and yearning of her delivery on “Honey Molasses”; and her rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” that altered the lyrics to be centered around racial injustice, the blood of our children, and how we are truly the land of the enslaved and not the free. The entire concert served as a reminder that Scott is one of soul’s greatest powerhouse vocalists, but it was these moments that really reinforced that.

Jill Scott’s tour is not only a celebration of her journey through womanhood, but a retrospective into Blackness and existing as a woman or man in our society. From the dancers who joined her band onstage during a stellar interpretative performance of “I Think It’s Better” under a moody blue hue to offering an homage to Millie Jackson after performing “The Way,” the show was both inspired by — and a continuation of — the Black diaspora. The set even included go-go takes of “A Long Walk” and “It’s Love,” showcasing how Jill continues to inject new life into some of her classic songs.

What was most profound about the performance though is the wisdom and aged confidence Scott displayed between selections. Instead of beginning “Gettin’ in the Way” with “Sista girl,” she began it with “Bitch,” followed by one of the most relatable quotes of the night: “I don’t like bitches. Rich bitches, definitely not broke bitches, lying bitches, jealous bitches, boss bitch… it ain’t a bitch I like.” And after her moving performance of “Slowly Surely,” Jill led the audience into a repetitive self-love mantra, acknowledging how self-love is the key to true happiness.

“The goal is to always get you some tonight. Whether it’s with the person you’re with tonight or by yourself,” she said at one point during the show. It was a sentiment that was expressed in varying ways by those in attendance; one woman even hopped over her chair and began to beat her feet.

Last night, Jill and her listeners were able to honor their own journeys of self-love, self-discovery, and self-forgiveness, all through the words and sounds the beloved artist shared with the world 23 years ago. Over the course of the night, Jill repeatedly proclaimed, “This is live music, muthafucka!” Ms. Scott’s show was more than a performance — it was a cleansing revival.

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