This was supposed to happen three years ago. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of her 2000 seminal debut album — Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 — the singer-songwriter announced she would tour and perform the entire Hidden Beach Recordings project in 2020. Then, along came the pandemic.
But the wait was worth it for the 17,500 screaming fans who greeted the three-time Grammy winner at the Los Angeles stopover on her relaunched anniversary tour. Strolling onto the stage at the sold-out Hollywood Bowl, garbed in a sparkly pantsuit accented by a colorful kimono, a smiling Scott said to resounding applause, “Hello everybody. Welcome to the 23rd anniversary of Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1. It’s a great pleasure to present this to you.”
And from there, Scott took fans all the way back to day one, beginning with the double-platinum album’s opening tracks “Jilltro,” “Do You Remember” and “Exclusively.” Then, the first of several massive sing-alongs erupted as she segued into her first-charting single, “Gettin’ in the Way,” followed by her second single and first top 10 hit on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, “A Long Walk.” As Scott glided into the latter track’s fitting first verse (“You’re here / I’m pleased”), one fan shouted, “She’s not playing tonight!”
That jubilant fervor continued throughout the rest of the night as Scott lovingly wound her way through more standouts from her first album. These included “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat),” which has become a Scott concert staple, “The Way,” “Honey Molasses,” “Love Rain,” “The Roots (Interlude),” “Slowly Surely” and “Watching Me.”
Watching and hearing Scott perform her breakthrough album, several realizations came to mind. First, her vocals are just as stunning as they were 23 years ago. The way she flexes those muscles on songs like “He Loves Me,” hitting operatic-type notes, still brings fans to their feet. Second, her insightful lyrics about life, love, relationships and self-empowerment are just as on-point as they were 23 years ago. She also possesses the innate ability to connect one-on-one with fans even while performing in front of thousands of them. Plus, she’s still having fun, as evidenced by the way she interacts with her backing band and three background singers, letting them do their thing as she does hers.
At one point during the show, as the conga player and the drummer laid down percolating solos, Scott exclaimed, “This is live music, MFs! There’s nothing MP3, ABC … none of that s—, about it.”
Warming up the crowd for Scott during an unseasonably chilly night were DJ Diamond Kuts and the Adam Blackstone Band. The latter brought out two special guests as well. Roc Nation artist Dixson performed covers of Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us” and D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel”), while Jon B delivered two of his hits, “Someone to Love” and “They Don’t Know.”
The next stop on the Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 anniversary tour is in Concord, Calif. on June 24.