This past Saturday Lauryn Hill brought her much talked about live show to Toronto. I honestly wasn’t that interested in it. My friend Erin went to the sold out show, I decided to let her have a MY THOUGHTS post and let her rant and rave about the show.
LAURYN HILL AT SOUND ACADEMY 01/22/11 BY ERIN LOWERS
After hearing the countless negative reviews and stories about Lauryn Hill’s recent tour, for me to say I expected the best was hardly the case. Let’s skip the BS and state the obvious: 1) she was late and 2) she reworked songs from Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. If you weren’t aware of that beforehand, your head was in the sand. She’s BEEN telling us that she has reworked Miseducation… so had you bought you ticket with the expectation of hearing Ms. Hill circa 1998, you need to stop reading this. Doors opened at 9pm, Lauryn was expected to go on at 11pm, and came on stage at midnight. Again, to address the “she made fans wait for 3 hours” slave cries, I’ve waited 3 hours for artists before – it’s the nature of this industry, it happens, and will continue to happen. NEXT.
DJ Mel Boogie held down the spot for the majority of the night, and whoever was on the 1s and 2s at 11pm got the crowd so hype. Spinning a conscious reggae set with tracks from Bob Marley and T.O.K., followed by a golden era set with Notorious B.I.G. and Naughty by Nature, the feel of the crowd was so positive. Whether it was the dude next to me spittin’, the couple next to me dancing or the freshie in front of me channeling their inner Marley, there was a sense of unity in Sound Academy, not annoyance. At least this was the case at the back of the building.
Midnight strikes and Lauryn Hill gets on stage, the band revved up and the show starts. Ms. Hill came with a seemingly loaded band, along with her backup singers – all who did a phenomenal job throughout the night and worked with her newfound vision. After Lauryn blessed the stage with her rendition of Bob Marley’s’ ‘Forever Loving Jah,’ the show really started. She shouted out to the crowed saying ‘We’re gonna do some classics…. reworked.” (Note: That was your cue to leave if you expected different.) The band busted into a funk-rock electro rendition of ‘Lost Ones,’ and Lauryn’s voice was almost as pure as it was when she first came out. Forget about the video footage from Rock the Bells, her voice was pristine.
Following ‘Lost Ones,’ Ms. Hill took a latinish-rock (if I can say that) vibe to ‘When it Hurts so Bad,’ and smoothly transitioned into ‘Ex-Factor.’ Breaking away from the big-band beat, she sung the life out of the ‘When it hurts so bad, why’s it feel so good.’ It was just that; she made that lyric hurt so bad, you felt it. To look out into the crowd and have people with their eyes closed taking it in says it all too well. Unfortunately, her lengthy rendition of ‘Ex-Factor’ truly took everything away from such a classic song, including the lyrical content. The first 5 minutes of that song was felt, the last 5 minutes brought all energy in the crowd down. It was lifted briefly with a rock rendition of ‘Final Hour,’ it was truly brought right back down with her take on Bob Marley’s ‘Zimbabwe’ that didn’t really have a place being there.
With a fairly disengaged audience, L. Boogie proposed the idea of “taking it back a little further for the true Fugees fans,” and broke out in ‘How Many Mics.’ No, it wasn’t the original ‘How Many Mics’ but rather some three-step prearranged structure that started off great and slowed down near the end with a Sunday morning church feel. Preach Lauryn, preach. At this point, one hour in, Ms. Hill took a moment to sign an autograph and collect some gifts. This is also a time where many people left.
HALF TIME SUM UP: If you don’t like live bands, if you expected 1998 Lauryn and if you couldn’t wrap your head around a new concept, you’re the person who hated this concert and probably left.
The second half of this show was what everyone was truly waiting for. Hardly deviating from the original beats, aside from the fact that it was a live band producing the sound, Ms. Hill performed ‘Fu-gee-la’ and ‘Ready of Not’ to an ecstatic crowd. Whatever momentum was lost in the first half was picked up harder than ever after these two songs. Then the moment any girl was waiting for…. ‘Killing Me Softly.’ Although it seemed a little longer than normal, there wasn’t a person in my viewpoint who wasn’t singing those lyrics, period. Through and through, it was performed heartfelt, despite Lauryn’s voice slowly disappearing and becoming raspy on her. What does that tell you? She sung the hell out of everything she performed, good or bad.
Ms. Hill followed up with her rendition of ‘Turn the Lights Down Low,’ and being the city that we are, everyone swayed side to side, took it in and felt it. The showed closed with ‘Doo Wop (That Thing),’ and Lauryn got the whole audience participating on that track. Having the girls sing the chorus, followed by the (deafening!!) attempt of the guys, everybody was in it. The band played on as Lauryn left the stage, and as people headed out the doors, the only complaints I heard were about coat check.
Maybe because I wasn’t squished as a sardine at the front could I truly appreciate this concert. Maybe it’s because I can appreciate how great that band was. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t go into that concert blind and knew what to expect. But to say Lauryn mislead people is outrageous. To say this was a terrible concert is obnoxious. To be so high-horsed on her timing or the reviews of other concerts is redundant. If you didn’t stay for the second half of the concert, your opinion doesn’t even matter. Would I say re-mastering Miseducation… was remarkable, definitely not. But after two hours of on stage, especially the last hour, it’s safe to say that she’s an exceptional performer. Artistry, altered or not, doesn’t take away from the talent of an artist, and Lauryn Hill – crazy or not – is one hell of a talented woman.