The queen of neo-soul, Jill Scott, serenaded Massey Hall Tuesday night to a packed and hyper-fashionable crowd of Toronto. Proving that big is sexy and bold is the best way to be, Scott brought the audience into her bedroom, crooning suggestively under crystal chandeliers in a black-patterned body suite, while she sipped pink Champagne. From old favorites like Love Rain, to a bold political performance of her own version of the US National Anthem Oh Say Can You See the Blood in the Streets, Scott’s show did not disappoint.
The first portion of the evening focused on love songs, accompanied by three, male backup singers, dancing in the doo-wop style of the Supremes. Sweet and sultry, Scott performed Wait, The Way, He Loves Me, and Crown Royal, while she massaged her own body like a lover. Eliciting howls and cheers from the crowd, she tickled imaginary male body parts at the shaft of her mic stand. With two drummers, a keyboard player, a bass player, a guitar player, a sax and a trumpet, Scott moved into faster power-ballads, belting out empowered pieces like Hate on Me, and Getting’ in the Way, with bold messages for the audience about female empowerment and career advice for all sexes alike. “Don’t give up your goodies to just anyone, cause ya might not know who you are dealing with.” Jill cautioned, in one of her many monologues, “And if you aren’t living the exact life you want, you better take notes on the people around you, cause many of us are living that life, I know I am.”
Fans packed every level of Massey Hall, dressed to the nine and dancing. The crowd knew all the words to Scott’s songs, singing rounds as Scott pointed the mic at each section of the auditorium. Dancing women spilled into the aisles and screamed in praise of Scott.
As the concert ended, and the audience roared for more, Scott returned for a fiery political performance and a message for Canadians. “Please know,” she said, “That we don’t like what’s going on back home; it is not ok. We want this mess to end.” She brought the lights down and a video montage played of Black Americans killed by the police like Philando Castile
and Aiyana Jones, amongst many, as well as a segment of Castile’s mother, Renee Jones Schneide shouting at the police. The electric guitar wailed and Scott let out all her rage, her voice booming from the gut, with added distortion, more like a metal show than an R&B concert, in a moving tribute to her murdered peers. Finally, as the encore drew to a close, Scott dropped down to a whisper and then sang an operatic improvisation, harking back to Billy Holiday’s song Strange Fruit. The women in the audience around me cried. As Scott trilled like a songbird the smiling faces of dead Americans flashed on screens behind her before the stage went black.