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Jill Scott Opts for New Look, Reworks Old Favorites at 2014 Essence Music Festival [EXCLUSIVE]

Jill Scott
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

Philadelphia soultress Jill Scott took center stage on Saturday night (July 5) at the 2014 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. While fans were still filing into the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the singer-songwriter kicked off her set on a mellow note with a slower-than-normal version of ‘The Way.’

With a live band behind her already-strong vocals, Scott was off to a solid start but she tested the waters for a definitive response from the crowd. “How y’all doing tonight Essence?” she prodded. There was an affirmative murmur from the audience, but no resounding reply.

The ‘Blessed’ creator pressed on while fingering her new bone-straight bob — a departure from her usual free-flowing natural hair. “Don’t let this hat fool you,” she said. “Sisters are still sisters even if we shave all our hair off. It’s love.”

She managed to catch the crowd’s attention then and they cheered. The exchange was an indication of what Scott’s set would represent.

The chanteuse belted out a few of her biggest tracks to start including a reworked version of the seductive ‘Crown Royal,’ which details a night of passion while comparing a lover to the smooth taste of the cognac over ice.

In her black cut-out top and cream patterned bell bottoms, Scott tried some crowd interaction again. “You know how you have that Crown that first night,” she said with a pause. “And the next day you wake up like…,” she trailed off, pantomiming holding a glass and pouring the remainder of the contents out with a frown. Concertgoers hollered their acknowledgement and Scott seemed to revel in the warmth. Finally.

It was the perfect instance to move into another one of her more popular tracks, ‘The Way,’ from her 2001 debut LP, ‘Who is Jill Scott?’ The tempo of much of the material performed was either slowed-down or sped up, or the breakdowns were different from what fans are familiar with on wax — which is fine if that’s what you’re expecting from a Jill Scott show. Still, those who’d never caught her in concert may have been thrown off by nearly everything being remixed.

In her own personal tribute to the city of New Orleans, Scott incorporated a song called ‘Put Me Back Together’ by local soul legend Irma Thomas. The track is soft and sticky-sweet with a longing feel. She covered it effortlessly. Then there was a flash of light and the band pepped up, ready to go into ‘Golden,’ ‘Blessed’ and ‘He Loves Me’ — the latter had the singer showcasing her operatic skills at the very end.

Jill Scott showed her skills at the Essence Festival this year, whether fans expected them or not, and found a way to keep old favorites fresh.

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