After Ms. Lauryn Hill dropped out of the spotlight over a decade ago, and then again more recently, her sometimes erratic behavior and financial troubles unfortunately tended to overshadow her incredible talent. With so many artists on the radio and in the spotlight today that many of us wish would stop making music, there’s a wistfulness when you think about an artist as legendary and gifted as Ms. Hill and all that’s happened after Miseducation showed what L-Boogie was capable of as a solo artist. All the trouble be damned, you can’t help but hold out hope that Hill will find that sweet spot and give us new music once again. For now, at least, there’s the occasional Lauryn Hill concert and you hold out hope she at least starts close to on time.
Last night’s show at the Hard Rock Live Rocksino was the seventh stop on her current MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! tour and she gave a professional and incredibly satisfying performance.
Opener Paul Beaubrun of Haiti kicked off the show with a 40-minute set of his unique, culturally influenced, roots/blues sound. He excited the crowd with his incredible guitar skills, smooth vocals, and English and Creole lyrics.
After about a twenty-minute break, Ms. Hill’s warm-up DJ worked the crowd and shortly after 9 p.m. announced that Ms. Hill was in the building. However, this statement was followed by about fifteen minutes of 90s hip-hop classics and no Lauryn Hill in sight. Audience members, a few at a time, began to take their seats once again, slowly realizing that the DJ very could well have meant that Ms. Hill literally had just entered the building.
But, about 15 minutes later, L-Boogie herself entered the stage and the room erupted. She went right into an incredibly fast version of “Everything is Everything,” which set the tone for the rest of the evening: Most of the songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill were performed as accelerated remixes. Her raps, performed at a hypersonic speed, were flawless.
Hill directed her eight-piece band, sound technicians, and three back-up singers in a James Brown-esque fashion throughout the entire show — at one point, for example, telling the backup singers, “Shhhh… sweeter, a little sweeter.” She seemed to direct them like a maestro in front of the Cleveland Orchestra, while also giving time for solos and what sounded like jam sessions. In fact, the whole concert felt like a jam session among extremely talented musicians with the Ms. Lauryn Hill at the front of it all.
The crowd roared when she went into the Fugees classics “Killing Me Softly”, “How Many Mics” and “Fu-Gee-La.” Ms. Hill then did several Bob Marley numbers, including the classic “No Woman No Cry.” The covers were done in a slower tempo, which gave the crowd a chance to sing along en masse.
Finally, the last song and possibly the biggest crowd pleaser of the night, “Doo Wop (That Thing).” The energy remained high throughout the entire show, even through the several awkward moments of silence where Ms. Hill had to fix a sound issue or direct a sound technician. It was a truly satisfying night and reason to hope, yet again, that only good things are in store for Ms. Hill and her fans in the future.