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Lauryn Hill exhilarates an eager crowd at Montreal's Metropolis

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Lauryn Hill concert Montreal

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Excitement. Anticipation. Frustration. Anger. Relief. Confusion. Exhilaration.

These are the many emotions that characterize the Lauryn Hill concert Sunday night at Montreal’s Metropolis theatre. For most fans that braved last night’s deep freeze, the sold out show was over a decade in waiting. Hill did not disappoint, but she definitely took her time getting there.

Early reports were clear, Lauryn Hill may have finally emerged after an almost decade long self-imposed exile from the music industry, but as with all things Lauryn Hill, this would not be a simple re-entry into musical society. News quickly surfaced that Hill was showing up extremely late for shows and giving erratic performances. Fans complained that the classic songs from her hugely successful solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, were re-worked to the point of being unrecognizable.

The Montreal show was no exception to this pattern. The doors opened at 9:30pm but Hill only took the stage at 12:30am. Her DJ played an hour set to keep the annoyed and anxious crowd at bay and announced that, “Miss Hill apologizes, she needed to rest her voice because of the cold." When Hill finally appeared she barely acknowledged the elephant in the room. The reception from the crowd however, was overwhelming. This concert was a decade in waiting and the crowd at the Metropolis would not let something like a 3-hour wait bring them down. Hill opened the show with a Bob Marley song, one of many Marley songs that made their way into the show. Yes Ms. Hill, we all know you are the mother of 5 of Bob Marley’s grandchildren.

Finally delving into her own songs, Hill assured the crowd that; “We're going to do some classics tonight. You're definitely going to recognize the words." She was absolutely right; the words were recognizable. Too bad everything else about her classics were not. Hill showcased her very talented band in funk versions of Lost Ones, Ex-Factor and Zion. Ex-Factor was particularly hard to stomach as the new version lost the desperation that was so real and amazing in the original. Instead the audience was offered the song in snippets interrupted by long instrumental solos that stretched the song to close to 8 minutes long. There is no doubt that Hill, her band and back-up singers are talented and accomplished musicians. These revamped songs seemed to aim at demonstrating this talent. To give Hill the benefit of the doubt, she has clearly grown as an artist and her songs from the Miseducation album probably seem outdated to her. The crowd, on the other hand, had waited a very long time to hear these songs live. If Hill had been touring this past decade, playing these classics over and over, the re-imagined versions would have been more understandable and it would have been possible for her fans to grow with her. But as is stands, she has been a musical recluse and many in the audience just wanted the chance to here their favorite songs in a way that was at the very least familiar to them. Hill could have easily demonstrated her current musical direction and still pleased the audience with their favorites if she had, perhaps, surprised the crowd with some new material.

Redemption

All was not a loss however, as Hill redeemed herself in a big way in the last half of the show. Going back to her Fugees roots, Hill ripped into How Many Mics, Zealots, Fu-gee-la and Ready or Not, sending the crowd into overdrive. With these songs she stayed close to the originals but still showcased her new rock-funk vibe. Hill proved that she is still an amazing MC. New acts like Nicki Minaj could learn a thing or two from Lauryn Hill. If Ready or Not didn't win over every last member of the audience, Killing Me Softly certainly did. A smash hit for the Fugees in 1996, the Roberta Flack cover further reminded the audience exactly why they had waited 3 hours for this show. Hill’s voice and MC skills were perfection in the encore when she finally played Doo Wop (That Thing) the signature track from the Miseducation album.

Lauryn Hill started out by alienating the audience but somehow managed to bring home a crowd-pleasing exhilarating performance to be reckoned with. It was emotional manipulation, but who would you rather be manipulated by than the beautiful and talented Ms. Lauryn Hill?

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Comments

  • Little T 3 years ago

    The Show was great. She was gone for so long, but she has to enjoy what she`s doing...showing other flow was the way to do it.
    Who wouldn`t be proud of having Marley grand children
    Really glad of how the show went down, we can`t expect her to sound the same...she`s an artist, not our property. She was amazing. Thank You Ms. Hill.

  • miss22k 3 years ago

    I most definitely agree. The show was phenomenal! A true fan of Miss. Hill would not complain one bit about her "revamped" classics. Why? By simply listening to her Unplugged album, you'd know why. She done changed! Aside from the change that comes with time, she has also evolved spiritually and/or even fundamentally. Which I find to be a beautiful evolution and to put it in her own words from the live album: "anything that isn't changing is dead, so we better be changing".

    And let's face it, it's been over a decade so I knew better than to put my hopes on experiencing the same 23-year-old-Miseducated Lauryn. And why are people hating on her Bob Marley tributes? C'mon anyone who knows her lyrical substance knows she's always been down for the struggle and been expressing Rasta philosophy even during her Fugees stage. She wasn't a dred for fashion, nor did she sing "Forever Loving Jah" to underline the fact that she's Rohan Marley's babymom.

    Additionally, live band concert experience have always been about showcasing the raw and uncut musicality and spontaneity of artists, so I think it was refreshing to hear different arrangements and see how versatile her flow/cadence could be, ESPECIALLY after being a recluse and birthing 5 children. You wanna hear studio version? Listen to the album at home.

  • miss22k 3 years ago

    In the end, we got the Fugees classics, "That Thing" and "Turn Your Lights Down Low" in its 'recognizable form' (even though the other songs were not hard to recognize if you knew her lyrics, particularly "Lost Ones", "Final Hour" and "Ex-Factor".

    ...She's an authentic artist and her withdrawal from the music scene was due specifically to the excess of superficiality that she encountered in her career. She hated the fact that it began to mould her music to satisfy the demands of others and the industry. It was no longer true creative expression. We wanted her to comeback, so here she was, real in the flesh and truly being herself. Yes I was pretty impatient about her tardiness but hey, I'm grateful for just being able to witness magic like yesterday's show and even surprised she's ready and willing to do not just a tour, but one comprised solely of old tunes. So I, too, Thank You Mis. Hill.

  • Profile picture of Kara Hughes
    Kara Hughes 3 years ago

    Miss22K and Little T - I LOVE your comments!! please keep them coming!!. You both make really good points that Hill is an artist and entitled to grow and change her musical direction. For me i just think - why not come up with new material to demonstrate where you are going and not tour on solely a 12 yr old album? I would love her to release something new and cohesive in this rock/funk style she is adopting and would respect her artistic direction that much more if she did. (The unplugged album was not very cohesive in my opinion) ... and these reworkings would have made more sense and been easier to accept.
    She had enough industry clout back in 98 when she exiled herself to re-organize her career to suit her needs and release albums under her own terms....

  • Anonymous 3 years ago

    Can you imagine doing a concert where every word you sing and melody you bring people sing along. Come on most of could sing all her songs in our sleep. The author of this article jumped onto the band wagon with the rest of the idiotic reviewers. Lauryn doesnt dance so she cant remix song to dance to them. What she has is her vocals and her mceeing and what I hear when I went to her concert was exactly that. I loved loved the musicianship and artistry of that concert. He energy is amazing and she sounded perfect. Here is my final point Lauryn Hill is not late for her concerts. She always and I mean always starts her concerts around midnight without fail which means its not her its the damn promoters who have the time wrong. They should put on tickets that doors open at 9 or whatever time but shouldnt state that the show starts at that time....
    I love the old and new Lauryn hill. She is just simply misunderstood just because she does things her way and does not play fake like the rest of them Bubble gum artist.