The singer hit up downtown’s Club Nokia for a healthy dose of songs pulled from several realms of her musical history, including her time with the Fugees, her Grammy-winning album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and even a little tribute to Bob Marley. [Note: The photo shown here isn’t of Hill on Monday evening, because press photos were not made available.]
Hill opened her concert—which, despite reports of extreme tardiness in the past, started only about 20 minutes after the scheduled time—by declaring to the crowd: “If it’s okay with you, we’d like to do some classic music.” And classic music she certainly did, launching with her Miseducation hit “Everything Is Everything,” before rolling into Refugee Camp All-Stars’ “Sweetest Thing” and weaving back to Miseducation with “Lost Ones.”
But to be honest, her use of term “classic” should be interpreted loosely, especially when you consider how Hill, wearing an oversized dress and suit jacket, performed the songs. While she certainly sang the lyrics to the aforementioned tunes, they were only recognizable as the songs we’re familiar with at certain, fleeting points. Not that that’s a bad thing—Hill’s voice is still deep and luscious as it ever was but anyone hoping for a tour through the recorded versions of her songs will be sorely disappointed.
Consider, for instance, her version of the Fugees’ 1996 smash “Killing Me Softly” to get a feeling for how she’s interpreting her songs these days:
One fascinating aspect of Hill's concert was her commentary on stage, especially when the reclusive star talked about her personal life. Before singing Miseducation's "To Zion," which is about her oldest son Zion, now 13 years old, she told the crowd: “I keep having these children. I don’t know if I’m the most fertile woman in America." Later she added, possibly alluding to being pregnant with her sixth child: "I've got five big children, can you believe that? ... Wait till you hear the big secret, though."
Other songs in Hill’s set included the Fugee’s “Ready or Not” and “Fu-Gee-La”— she often seemed most comfortable, and relateable, with Fugees material, oddly—and solo tracks like “Doo Wop (That Thing).”
Regardless of the changes she made to her music, seeing Hill perform was a true treat. Just watching her onstage is something like watching a conductor at an orchestra: Hill regularly turned to her band and motioned them to get louder or softer, or to slow down or speed up, by flapping her arms up and down.
And she directed her audience, too: “Put the hump in your back,” she told the dancing crowd on more than one occasion. “Get the hump.” My favorite moment was actually right before she sang “Ready or Not,” where she encouraged everyone to get out their lighters or cell phones— anything that would light up the room a bit. “Be,” she said almost whimsically, “the lights that you are.”
Hill’s Moving Target tour continues for several more dates. Details can be found on her website.
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