Jazmine Sullivan Shows How a True Church Girl Can Sing
Photos by Ivan Guzman
Jazmine Sullivan House of Blues April 2, 2015
If I could get the guy who was standing behind me last night at the Jazmine Sullivan show to review the concert for me through his loud and excited remarks, I would, because there were some great ones. Alas, he is probably suffering from a pretty crippling hangover right about now, and besides, the review would probably only consist of comments like "YAS MA'AM, WITH YO BIG ASS!" or "THIS RIGHT HERE MY JAM! YAS!" So I guess I'll just have to describe the magic of Sullivan's performance last night myself and hope to capture the essence of her heart-wrenching vocals and stage presence in the same way.
I'm not one to throw around this compliment often, but Jazmine Sullivan has a God-given talent. After taking a four-year hiatus from the music industry because of an abusive relationship, the Philadelphia born-and-raised singer returned early this year with her sophomore album, Reality Show, and explained her re-emergence by saying that she "can't escape [her] calling."
Thank God for that. The new album received critical acclaim mostly because of its experimentation and Sullivan's ability to cross over many different genres, but also because of the maturity in her lyrics. Sullivan has always been one to sing about the pain that comes with falling out of love, but this time it's different. She has gone from wanting to angrily and compulsively "bust the windows" out of her ex's car to simply rising above bad relationships, singing on her new album, "You can chase after boys, or you can rule the world."
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This pride and "here to stay" attitude was on full display last night as the stage curtain opened to reveal Sullivan standing at the mike dressed in a flashy, form-fitting black dress with a bunch of leather strands hanging from her sleeves, looking like an early R&B/soul icon. Whenever she lifted up her arms, the strings hung all the way down to her legs, and excuse me for the cheesy metaphor I'm about to make, but I couldn't help seeing her dress as representing the pain and baggage from her past that she always carries with her yet is not ashamed to put on display for her fans.
And she definitely has fans. Whether she was singing the very first song she released in 2003 or a ballad that is hidden somewhere on her new album, the crowd knew all the words and didn't shy away from belting along.
The real moment of the night came when she sat down on a stool with just her acoustic guitar player to sing the breathtaking number "Forever Don't Last." Her unmatched vocal runs and the amount of raw emotion spilling out of her had everyone engaged with every fiber of their being, and whether she was stomping around the stage channeling her anger or standing at the mike stand smiling and singing about love, the self-proclaimed "church girl" always managed to take us back to her roots. The strength of her lower register and the occasional rasp in her voice are like that one strand of gray hair that you leave in because it's a symbol of what you've been through and where you're going.
"It's okay to be stupid sometimes, as long as you don't stay stupid," Sullivan told the sold-out crowd. "That's what my music is about." Through experience, Sullivan has learned how to move on, and all she wants to do now is ultimately teach her fans how to do the same.
Personal Bias: I'm obsessed with Jazmine's new album.
Overheard in the Crowd: "OKAY, CHEEKS. SIT ON THAT STOOL!"
Random Notebook Dump: I was amazed by how much effort the House of Blues staff put into keeping the crowd hydrated. The security guards were constantly going back and forth bringing pitchers of water and cups to give to the people in the front of the crowd.
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