"They mad because you're here and they aren't. Somebody's mad because you're here with your boo. Somebody's mad because your seats are better than theirs. They just mad. Well, I have a song especially for them." And with that, Jill Scott rolled into "Hate on Me", one of her many anthems that celebrate life, however you do it. As if on cue, a woman in a lovely polka-dot dress sitting front row dead center, stood up, hand in the air, and danced it out. If you noticed, you'd be obliged to shower a little hate on her. It's what the moment called for.
The rest of the opening concert of the 2014 BET Experience at STAPLES Center was more like another of Jilly from Philly's songs, though: Love Rain. American Idol winner Candice Glover began the June 27 show with a brief set of power ballads from her debut album showcasing why she won the long running competition. Marsha Ambrosius followed her and her time on stage was highlighted by her performing "Butterflies"—a song she penned for Michael Jackson—that then turned into a cover of another of his hits, "Can't Help It". Before she could get to her most well known song, the beautiful "Say Yes" from her time as part of Floetry, she was told that she was over time. She played a few bars on the keyboard and sang us to the chorus before rushing off stage.
The night's MC, comedic actor Anthony Anderson, came on stage right after her saying, "Marsha Ambrosius is ready to kick this white man's ass," referring to the stage hand who signaled to her that it was her time. Anderson had revealed during his introduction of her that "Say Yes" was one of his very favorite songs, a song that may have been the soundtrack to some of his baby-making. As Anderson continued to crack jokes, the stage hand whispered to him that he had gotten it wrong and cut her off too early. To which, Marsha only had this to say on Instagram.
The aforementioned Jill Scott was up next. Jill has performed pretty regularly over the last couple years and her set and band are tight and primed to delight the crowd. Her one hour show was filled with her hits, many of them from her debut album which is now nearly 15 years old. Scott's voice remains unimpeachable. She's a powerhouse vocalist with great control and a wonderful energy. By the time she hit the stage, the seats were about full and her rendition of "Golden" nearly brought the house down. It was her closing performance of "He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)," however, that will likely sit with the audience for a long time. As she built to the songs grand crescendo, she vamped into an operatic showcase of her voice. It was chilling. One of those moments that you're grateful to have witnessed.
Co-headliner Maxwell closed the show with a surprisingly energetic presentation of his nearly two decade long discography. Maxwell's show has been honed for smaller venues than STAPLES and for good reason. He makes intimate, sexy music and his performance plays off that with movement and moments designed to illicit screams and squeals. He's looking for undergarments to be thrown in his general direction.
He was game, though, and played to all parts of the 19,000+ seat venue—even the seats up in heaven as comedian Ron G had earlier described them. He got as close to his adoring fans as he could and while he couldn't quite touch anyone physically, the falsetto notes he hits on tracks like "This Woman's Work" and "(Ascension) Don't Ever Wonder" and the closing number, "Pretty Wings," succeeded in connecting with the souls of many in attendance.
After the show, however, the party wasn't over. As the audience exited onto the LA Live campus, local radio stations had succeeded in turning the area outside of Tom's Urban into a line dancing party. Folks planning to head home or to their next event, were side-tracked by the "Cha Cha Slide" and the "Cupid Shuffle."
An auspicious start to the BET Experience weekend.