Jill Scott’s appeal lies in being the sister, best friend, aunt or lover you’ve long known. She blends just enough real autobiographical content with a storyteller’s creative license to create prototype songs for a range of emotional experiences. As fabulous as she looks now, with a sunny attitude and solid career, her last few years have been rocky. The sequence of songs she masterfully performed at the Verizon Center on Sunday traced a romantic journey from pleasure, to pain, to confusion and finally to acceptance, with enough rest stops for fun and laughter as balance.
Scott’s confidence was clear when she took the stage and fronted her massive all-male band. With them clad all in black, Scott’s intergalactic b-girl ensemble of doorknocker earrings, spangly blue dress and neon green kicks focused all attention on her. Her energetically dancing background singers, dubbed “The Pipes,” referenced a diva named Gladys who had her own set of supportive Pips. Scott opened in frisky fashion with “Magnificent,” a party jam that feminizes the golden-age bravado of the Special Ed hit that it covers and paired nicely with the slinky disco workout of “Gimme.”
Scott leaned heavily on material from this year’s “The Light of the Sun” album, one that lags noticeably behind herother releases in the quality of the writing but whose themes served well to anchor her story arc. “Quick” details the demise of the relationship that produced Scott’s son. The glib delivery of this painful subject contrasted with the innocent sweetness of Scott and Anthony Hamilton evoking Ashford & Simpson on “So in Love.”
“Le BOOM Vent Suite” and “Rolling Hills” suffered from more of the lyrical cliches that plagued Scott’s recent release but benefited from long, multiple section arrangements that she and the band could explore. “Slowly Surely” from 2001’s “Who Is Jill Scott?” benefited the most from Scott’s ability to improve upon recorded songs. In its original state, it’s a hypnotic mantra about walking away from toxic love. In its current live incarnation, it’s an engrossing statement of affirmation, brought to an emotional height when interpolating De La Soul’s “Stakes Is High” and Ahmad Jamal’s “Swahililand.”
After the coda of heartbreak and recovery, it was back to the fun with Scott showing her love for D.C. with a go-go two-for-one of “It’s Love” and “A Long Walk,” then the resolution of the story arc with “Golden.” Fan favorite “He Loves Me” (Lyzel in E Flat) was almost an afterthought encore until Scott stretched it to dizzying operatic heights.