As soon as I heard that R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan would be performing at Houston’s House of Blues this month, I immediately snapped up a ticket. To tide myself over until last night’s concert—I hadn’t been this excited about a concert since I caught Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s joint tour last year—I passed the time by watching Sullivan’s many YouTube videos. Was Jazmine back?
Based on last night’s sold-out concert at the House of Blues, the answer is a resounding yes. Sullivan first made her name back in 2008 with her debut album Fearless, which garnered five Grammy Award nominations, including Best New Artist. Her sophomore effort, 2010’s Love Me Back, packed a similarly soulful punch. In 2010, however, she decided to take a break from music, stating on Twitter that she had always intended to leave music when it wasn’t fun anymore. More recently she revealed that she was actually suffering from depression after a bad break-up; on her YouTube channel, she shares the story of how she returned to her parents’ home in Philadelphia to recuperate, even sleeping in her childhood bedroom.
After a few years, she finally felt confident enough to begin writing music again, and the result is her third and most daring album, The Reality Show, which was released in January. Straying from the forlorn, retro-sounding songs of her previous two albums, Sullivan takes on the role of observer, channeling a wide range of human experience through her voice and passion. That passion for life permeated her sold-out show at the House of Blues last night.
A few minutes past nine o’clock, following a lackluster opening set by up-and-coming singer Jordan Bratton, Sullivan’s disembodied voice suddenly filled the room, much to the delight of the entire crowd. The music swelled, the curtains opened, and front and center was Sullivan, singing effortlessly, not missing a beat. The crowd erupted in jubilation—one of the voices of our generation had returned to bless our ears with her musical storytelling.
Sullivan started her show by taking a trip down memory lane with her second single, “Bust Your Windows.” Cheers reverberated through the hall, and I felt the pounding of the bass drum in my chest. After belting out a few more of her early hits, she then ventured into her newer music, starting with “Let It Burn,” my favorite song from her new album. The track’s electronica-meets-R&B sound, combined with Sullivan’s black, fringed dress and platform shoes, created a sense of timelessness.
Every song she introduced was greeted with praise, sweet anticipation building again and again to hear her raspy alto voice. Her riffs, dips and higher trips recalled those of a Sunday morning church service. During a pause in the music I heard an audience member yell “Take your time!” No one wanted the set to end.
For an encore, Sullivan performed fan favorite “I’m in Love With Another Man,” after which she received a deafening standing ovation.
Welcome back, Jazmine Sullivan.