Fans waited in the rain to listen to the Empire star, who opened his set by explaining why he decided to perform after the Jan. 29 incident in Chicago. “I had to be here tonight y’all,” he told the standing-room-only audience. “I couldn’t let those mother f–kers win.”
Smollett also fought back tears as he admitted he wasn’t “fully healed.” But he’s on his way, he added. He was accompanied at the concert by his siblings, including brother Jocqui, who told the crowd that “my family realized that tonight was an important part of Jussie’s healing…on behalf of the Smollett family, we are so proud of our brother.”
Backed by singers and a keyboardist, Smollett’s performed “Freedom,” the first track from last year’s debut album “Sum of my music.” He followed it with “No doubt about it” and “Heavy” from his Fox drama about a fictitious hip hop music company and that family that runs it. “This song has new meaning to me,” he said of the latter tune. Smollett plays Jamal Lyon in the series, which is currently in its fifth season on Fox.
Empire’s creator Lee Daniel was among the 400 or so in attendance, along with U.S. Rep Maxine Waters and Wilson Cruz (My So-Called Life). There was a scheduled meet and greet for special ticket holders but it was reportedly canceled due to security concerns.
There have been no arrests.
On Friday, Smollett made his first public comment since his brief hospitalization. “Let me start by saying that I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly, I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”