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Jamila Woods delivers a stunning homecoming concert to Chicago


Jamila Woods’ last show as part of her Water Made Us tour was also a homecoming show. And the local crowd at the Vic Theater responded with a love befitting a hometown hero.

In the nearly eight years since Woods’ debut album, “Heavn,” he has amassed a steady following of music fans drawn to the lyrically gripping soul. But with each successive album, Woods also gained vocal and instrumental confidence, incorporating elements of other genres such as alternative rock and improvised music to make his songs shine. He also pushed himself lyrically on his latest album, “Water Made Us.”

If “Legacy!” Legacy!,” her second album, was a musical tribute to artists and writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison who influenced Woods, and her latest album is arguably her most vulnerable yet. Here Woods revealed the intricacies of his personal life; she sprinkled them throughout the record, sharing a story about intimacy, relationships, and the ways we long, fight, or despair about them.

Woods detailed this experience during parts of the show, highlighting that “Water Made Us” is “the Jamila album” that focuses on “how we talk to each other and how we relate to each other in moments of conflict.” Woods then talked about how the writing of this album came after the end of Saturn’s return from an astrological perspective and the emotional and social struggles of 2020. He said Woods always adhered to his image as a good person. , but a lot of reflection (and some Zoom therapy) helped her unlock the ways that her perceptions of herself were hindering or limiting her in her daily life.

Lyrically this can be heard on many of the tracks that make up his latest album. And they were heard throughout the evening on Friday’s show. When Woods took the stage, he captivated the calm but enthusiastic audience. Clad in a crop top and late-’90s Janet Jackson-style hair, Woods performed the first six songs of “Water Made Us” with confidence and enthusiasm. Often, she added a dash of choreography and subtle hand movements to match the rhythm and energy of the entire group as she sang.

Woods has always been an engaging live performer, but the confidence and assurance in his latest performance as he sings songs like the infectious album opener “Bugs” or the soulful “Tiny Garden” shows he’s entered a new and exciting phase. career.

Woods mostly stuck to the tracks from the new album. She even performed the song/poem “I Miss All My Exes” (which originally featured Chicago musician Gia Margaret). As his charismatic band pushed the instrumentation forward, Woods opened a book to read the piece, providing a surprising (albeit brief) moment of pause in the theatre. Halfway through the show, local musician Peter CottonTale joined him in performing the song “Thermostat”. Two long-time friends and collaborators created a fascinating duet.

He then seamlessly weaved Paramore’s “That’s What You Get” into the flow of the rhythm-heavy live show. It seemed to take a minute or two for the enthusiastic audience who sang along to every Woods original to catch on. But after doing so, they were delighted with the surprise change in musical direction. Woods fascinates his audience as much as he challenges them. However, this did not mean that all traces of the old were erased. Popular oldies like “Holy” found their way into the more than hour-long set. Woods could go on and on (he certainly has a body of work to back it up), but he left the audience satisfied and craving more, which is something only the best musicians can do.

Britt Julious is a freelance critic.


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