For a little over an hour and a half, reigning R&B queen Jilly from Philly held court before a thrilled (and sold out) audience at ACL Live Saturday night. Her voice was technically astounding, easily scaling octaves as she climbed from sultry low tones to stratospheric heights, but even more remarkable was her depth of expression. Perhaps more than any other singer of her generation, Scott deftly uses her voice as a versatile instrument to clearly articulate a stunning range of emotion. In one moment she’s the bold and brassy boss lady who runs the show, in the next she aches with the vulnerability of a rejected lover. Through it all she never loses track of power that guides her, both from within and from above.
Warmly thanking the audience for “this incredible 15 year journey” she moved back and forth through her catalog. She entered to a bombastic, funky rendition of “Gimme” from her 2001 album “Experience Jill Scott 826+” and peppered the set with plenty of tracks from her excellent 2000 debut “Who is Jill Scott.” The latter, including a lushly fleshed out rendition of “A Long Walk” complete with sexy sax solo, were ecstatically received.
On wax, Scott comes across as every single lady’s best friend — your cool, sassy girlfriend who warns you not to hook up with that joker who doesn’t really respect you (again), but never judges you when you do it anyway. On stage she brought that vibe to life. In a hilarious diatribe she spelled out the single woman’s dilemma, hanging out with a “maintenance man” to get you through til you find something real. Her lengthy anecdote, which included a brief reminiscence about the good ol’ days of porn and a mimed sequence of changing the batteries in a (ahem) personal massager, was an elaborate set up of “Closure” the powerful song about moving on that’s the lead single on her new album “Woman.”
In a demonstration of exactly how well Scott knows her audience, alongside two drummers, bass, guitar and horns, her 10-man backup band included a three-man vocal ensemble “the Pipes” who wore muscle shirts to show off their well-toned bodies. Scott herself was the embodiment of grown and sexy, translating exquisite shades of passion into vocalizations while she wound her body sensually, particularly on a steamy performance of “Crown Royal.”
Refreshingly, the warmth and the frank sex talk come off as genuine expressions of Scott’s personality. She has no gimmicks, just a unique knack to translate the emotions so many of us grapple with into song. Also, as she proved with a closer that found her operatically switching from English into Spanish in a spectacular performance of “He Loves Me,” her vocal talent is right up there with the all time greats.