Stand Still And Feel: Jamila Woods at the TLA - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Softspoken but with a powerful presence, the gentle songstress Jamlla Woods left an indelible mark on the TLA this past Friday. What she lacks in flash and pomp and circumstance, Woods over-delivers in lyrics that feel strikingly familiar to her listeners – she builds stanzas in the spirit of love, friendship, introspection, and liberation.

Woods kicked off her set by performing, in order, the first few songs of her latest release, Water Made Us. Backed by a four-piece band, Woods crooned over keyboard-heavy tracks like “Bugs” and the ever-popular “Tiny Garden” that speaks of a simple love that is free of frills but a love that is carefully tended to.

Jamila Woods | photo by Melissa Simpson

Woods is a natural beauty. If she wore makeup, it was unremarkable, but more importantly, unnecessary. With eyes as big as saucers and gorgeous natural locs sprouting from her hair like the tangerine and saffron flowers wrapped around her mic stand, Woods commanded the stage with intentional presence and a reaching emotional connection to the crowd.

Like her album, Woods inter-spliced spoken word into her set. Her voice always calm and measured, never hurried or overly excited.

At one point in the evening, there appeared to be some sort of medical emergency in the audience. As the amazing TLA staff moved expeditiously to address the situation, Woods stopped mid-song and asked the crowd to take deep healing breaths. This occurred until the person in distress made it out of the crowd safely with assistance from the venue staff. During this time Woods remained grounded and a calming presence, a feat that appeared to be no effort to her. Once all was well, Woods continued on with the show.

Jamila Woods | photo by Melissa Simpson

One particularly interesting moment that occurred during the show was when Woods did a plushy rendition of Paramore’s “That’s What You Get.” It was a surprising choice but Woods’ styling of the 2007 pop-punk hit fit squarely into the romantic theme of the evening. She maintained amorous consistency when she recited the poem “I Miss All My Exes,” where she mused on the idiosyncrasies of intentionally sharing space and life with another.

Of course, Woods performed her most familiar song, “Holy” – a self-love anthem that recontextualizes the concept of loneliness and singularity. During this song, the bass playing gave a subtle nod to the Notorious B.I.G. by including a quite base riff of “Juicy” for a few measures.

At one point in the evening, Woods made reference to Harriet Tubman and likened her determination and vision for Black liberation to that of the Palestinian people currently fighting for their humanity – unsurprisingly the crowd erupted in accordance. This powerful moment was followed by a performance of the Toni Morrison-inspired track, “Good News”  – Woods crooned “The good news is we were happy once. The good news is water always runs back where it came from.”

If you have the chance, to see Jamila Woods, do it, even if she isn’t quite up your alley. She makes music that makes you stand still and feel everything that the world in the people in it have to offer. And we could all use more feeling in our lives.

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