He performed a mix of songs from his debut album and Empire, including the song “Heavy.” “A lot of my Empire fans are here tonight,” Smollett said. “I’m very honored to be able to bring to life the character Jamal. The next song is from the show. It now has new meaning to me.”
Before Smollett’s performance, his siblings took the stage, noting they had cautioned him against performing. “If I’m honest, as his big brother, I wanted Jussie to sit this one out,” said his brother Joel Smollett Jr. “I sincerely wanted him to stay out of the public until he heals. Then, after much debating, some arguing and many tears, my family and I realized that tonight is an important part of Jussie’s healing.”
Smollett then took to the stage. “I had to be here tonight. I couldn’t let those motherfuckers win,” he said to the crowd, who cheered and applauded.
Smollett had already canceled the meet-and-greets at the concert, offering to refund the money or donate it to the Black AIDS Institute, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of his fans, who packed the Troubadour from wall to wall.
“I keep looking at the set list,” said Smollett. “I can’t remember shit right now.”
Smollett also acknowledged the Empire album covers being held up by an audience member. “I promise I’ll sign those,” he said.
“Life is too short not to love who you want to love, and life is too long to not love who you love,” Smollett said as the crowd roared.
He later said: “The hateful rhetoric has to stop and it stops when you believe in love. Sometimes — and I’m guilty of it, too — we who celebrate love can actually get wrapped up in so much hate. We cannot let that happen. If that does, we are destined to fail to even exist. That’s not an option. Take love back. We have to take it back because it was ours to begin with.”
Telling the crowd how much he loved them and appreciated their support, Smollett added: “There’s a lot I haven’t been able to say. I’m sure my lawyers are like shut up and sing.”
Smollett was attacked early Tuesday morning in what Chicago police called a possible hate crime.
The 36-year-old actor-singer was exiting a restaurant in the 300 block of East North Water Street when two suspects began yelling racial and homophobic slurs toward him. They then proceeded to attack Smollett, punching him and pouring an unknown chemical substance over him, police said. At some point during the attack, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck.
On Saturday night, Smollett explained that as a result of the attack, he was left bruised but his ribs were not cracked. He sought medical treatment right away, but was not hospitalized, contrary to reports. Doctors in both Chicago and Los Angeles had cleared him to perform Saturday night.
“And, above all, I fought the fuck back,” he said.
Smollett finished with the song “Powerful,” which he sang with Alicia Keys on Fox’s Empire.
Empire series creator Lee Daniels also was in attendance, while Congresswoman Maxine Waters sat in the VIP area with Smollett’s family.
Smollett broke his silence about the attack on Friday, telling Essence in a statement that he believes “justice will be served.”
Jussie Smollett speaks out at Los Angeles performance. pic.twitter.com/l8QZAQfubW
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 3, 2019
Feb. 2, 11:38 p.m. Headline corrected to say show took place in Los Angeles.