“It’s been a long time coming,” says Ms. Lauryn Hill, as she appears on the IndigO2 stage to the sold-out crowd.
“We cut through so we can get back to doing it the way it should be done.” This sounds like a veiled apology for the past decade, where her eccentric behaviour and cryptic proselytizing for a religious/political cause no one could quite figure out, did little to preserve the glory that came with her brilliant, ground-breaking ’98 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Garish outfits and makeup, peculiar new songs – Social Drugs anyone? – bad vocals and frustrating re-mixes of her classics seemed to taint her last two London shows in ’05 and ’07, but if all this was the sum of being vexed at the music industry and any other personal woes, then tonight’s show suggests she’s finally made peace with the world.
Flanked by an enthusiastic 7-piece band, the youthful looking 36-year-old delivers an ecstatic tribute to her musical heritage and the album that made her famous, defying any misgivings she’d lost her sparkle. The first part of the nearly two hour proceedings features a flamboyant recap of Everything is Everything, where her pitch perfect rasp evolves into a spine-tingling gospel lament, as well as a funky reworking of The Doors’ Light My Fire and Marley’s Concrete Jungle, which seamlessly segues into Forgive Them Father. All the while, Hill’s a fearless conductor who’s remarkable to look at. Completely in sync with the music, she continuously whips her head around to each band member to ensure they’re keeping up and commands each song, from the ominous Final Hour to the endearing Zion.
Other heartfelt numbers, like The Sweetest Thing and further tributes to Marley and Stevie Wonder also elicit approving cheers, followed by a thunderous performance of Lost Ones, and a quick dip into Fugees territory, where she truly exceeds herself, thanks to a machine-gun delivery and tomboy swagger, made all the more incredible when you’re reminded she’s doing all this macho posturing in a shiny, gold dress.
The show’s only shortcoming is the dodgy soundsystem and the fact she steers clear of the MTV Unplugged 2.0 album, which for all its criticism had some real gems – and even she points out she thought “no one wanted to hear that”, promising she’ll come back to perform it. But all this does little to dampen the rest of the evening,which has more than enough triumphs to certify this lady’s on the comeback. (Words: Matilda Egere-Cooper, Pic: Akin Aworan)