Ok, how do I begin? So we went to see Ms. Lauryn Hill at the Keswick Theater right outside of Philadelphia on March 28th. I’m not writing a review about this Lauryn Hill concert. I’ll just give you my honest take on things. Ms. Lauryn Hill is an incredible talent but you already knew that. You know the history also; she’s an awesome musician, singer and rapper, released one solo album in 1998 that’s still receiving accolades and breaking records in this very year of 2015. However, Ms. Hill has totally missed the mark on the artist and fans relationship and here’s why.
Lauryn Hill of course comes to every show late; we expect this by now because she’s notorious for it. She wasn’t four hours late this time but just shy of two. And as the lights dim and she takes her seat and begins to strums a guitar along with her band a melody begins that you want to be familiar with, you’re so excited at this point! Is it Everything Is Everything?” is it Doo Wop? no… it’s not. You don’t know this song, you’ve never heard it. Now you think to yourself maybe its new, maybe it’s a cover because a few folks are singing along, they must be mega-fans and you’ve not reached that level so you relax and enjoy the opening number and wait for the next song to begin. Ten whole songs later you still have no clue what the hell this woman is singing; did you buy the wrong album? Was there a deluxe version you missed out on? NO. Ms. Lauryn Hill does what she damn well pleases and doesn’t perform anything you are familiar with and now you along with many others are up out your seat but not dancing, back at the bar because you aint’ missing nothing but another drink at this point.
This is the night summed up… I think it’s a huge mistake for an artist to do an entire set of unpopular or not widely known music, especially when you only have one album out… also doesn’t help when it’s over 15 years since its release. Granted The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is old, it is a masterpiece and fans want THAT. Instead we got “The Narcissism of Lauryn Hill” which doesn’t feel like an “artists decision" to change the show but more of an IDGAF and this is what I want to do. Now, I will say this, the show was far from bad. Musically excellent, the band was phenomenal, but you have to please the supporters who are putting money in your pockets. When the first song the audience responds to collectively, more than half way into the show is "All Falls Down" That's absolutely terrible. This was never released as a single and her cut never made Kanye West’s final version, it’s a clear that the audience was desperate for familiarity at this point.
I'll give you this to take away; a music lover or musician would absolutely love the set. But an average fan who just wanted to hear a familiar tune, dissect the lyrics or see the woman who actually sang the song you’ve been belting into your hair brush in front of the mirror for the past decade perform it live, you'd probably leave upset and unfulfilled. A show that has no opening acts and starts at "9" but actually quarter to 11, with a body of music you aren't familiar with, unidentifiable covers of known singles or "classics" feels like a letdown.
Now I'll chew on some of my words if this would at all discourage you from actually going to see Ms. Lauryn Hill live because that is not my intent or mission with this. The woman is indeed a musical genius. I don’t know if it's the decision to not conform to what the masses want and remain true to her artistic truth or just rebel but the show put on two hours late is well worth the wait, it’s just not fan friendly. Ms. Lauryn Hill might as well have been a new artist showcasing new music, but go and have an open Mind or be disappointed. I was confused.
photo by Wei Shi