Seeing Lauryn Hill perform has been at the top of my To-See Concert List. So it was a no brainer that I would attend her Los Angeles show. Can you believe that it’s been a whopping 16 years since the hip-hop revolutionary released The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill?!
Saturday, May 17th was a night of anticipation at Club Nokia at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The crowd danced to the tunes being spun by a DJ who repeatedly asked if we were ready for Ms. Lauryn. Of course, fans continued to respond with roars. After an hour, you could sense the crowd getting very tired of waiting. But the DJ carried on with his tracks and everyone waited patiently. After standing for a solid three hours (including the opening act’s set) some people even decided to sit on the floor. In total, Ms. Hill ran about an hour and 15 minutes behind schedule but once she hit the stage, all was soon forgotten and we became entranced by her and the time machine she took us on.
She took the stage in a stark all-black ensemble and newly close-cropped hair. Her first song was a unique version of the Fugees classic, “Killing Me Softly”. This rendition was much more lively than the eerie hip-hop classic that everyone in the building knew by heart. The set continued with more nostalgia, “Everything Is Everything”, “Final Hour,” “To Zion,” “Lost Ones” and “Ex-Factor”. They all got similar treatment as the show’s opener. These versions lasted well beyond their original track time, as grandiose notes and thumping crescendos filled the venue.
Then there was an intermission, and when Hill returned to the stage with an acoustic guitar in hand, it signaled that it was time for an unplugged performance. I believe that this was the most hypnotizing moment of the show. Even though it was getting late, fans remained enchanted by the sweet sounds of strumming coming from Hill’s guitar. “Oh Jerusalem” received a great response, with the entire crowd singing along. Hill sang with soul, as her voice perfectly married the acoustic sounds.
After this enjoyable set, Hill stepped off the stage for one more intermission. This shorter wait ended when she returned, reintroducing her DJ then acknowledging that she was going to finish off the show with what the people wanted to hear. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Zealots” and several others filled the room. Hill finished the show with “Doo Wop (That Thing),” the smash hit from her classic 1998 album, The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill ending the night close to 2 a.m.
I was certainly impressed with her displayed versatility throughout the show’s three unique sets. She showcased her abilities as the artist everyone knows and loves. By reinventing some of her classic songs, Hill showed us that she is still trying to evolve as an artist, while staying true to her sound.
However, Saturday’s set also proved that Lauryn Hill is still full of contradictions, though. She’s in total command of her voice but laughs off the idea of a schedule. Despite the wait, I still would have to agree that I am grateful for the experience to finally see her perform and for the night back in time.