Wednesday, August 8, 2007


I can't believe I missed it, I was so sure she was going to be cracked out and I couldn't handle seeing her like that. I would have broken down, I love her. I've been watching all the past show clips, interviews, articles, so have you, and I wasn't looking forward to experiencing her in that state in my home town. Then I get a call at around 12:30am from my friend Kwesi asking "PLEASE tell me you're walking out of the concert with me right now???!?!!?!??" once I told him no, he began to tell me about my loss and for that I shall forever be in mourning. I wish I was there to be able to write my own review, but I missed it so I’ll have to give you a firsthand account from someone smarter than me. Here is Candace L’s review from the OkayPlayer website.

"Ms. Lauryn Hill LIVE in Brooklyn"

Candace L.
Lauryn Hill in Brooklyn’s Wingate Field

It’s a good thing they left so early.
It’s a good thing it was so hot late into the evening.
It’s an even better thing that she got lost.

Deep on the other side of nowhere is East Flatbush, Brooklyn, home to the world’s slowest CVS pharmacy, a Kennedy Fried Chicken shack and on Monday night, 10,000 visitors from across the five boroughs and East Coast. The elusive Lauryn Hill came to town that night and though not many believed she would actually show up, the masses came in throngs just in case. One early bird for the 7:30pm show came at 5:30pm only to find a line outside of Wingate Field already stretching down the block. These were the people desiring the limited seats at the Field, who evidently quickly surrendered them during Hill’s set when she didn’t sing “That Thing” soon enough for them. But more on that later.

The evening began with heavy promotion. Outside the park, makeshift stands and carts were set up to sell everything from Poland Spring to tube socks (hopefully for standing on the dirt and grass, but probably for no better reason than to push some socks). Once inside the gate, the marketing continued from the event’s host, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who paraded political allies onstage to Bush-bash and awkwardly pretend they were interested in a Lauryn Hill concert. Best of the pre-show was a group of teenaged-looking girls in tight red tees and tighter black pants or shorts. They appeared to be some sort of local dance group, but once onstage, they were introduced as a group of workers from various Applebee’s restaurants there to present raffle winners with a free dinner. But first they went down the line introducing themselves and pitching Applebee’s dishes (‘My name is Daishika. Try our new Apple BBQ Chicken Salad at the BedStuy Applebee’s on Fulton Street and come see me.’) Young girls in tight clothes asking a group of strangers to ‘come see them’ - nothing cheeky about that at all.

The first intentional entertainment of the night was Sean Kingston, the seventeen-year-old singer of “Beautiful Girls,” a song that is allegedly number one on a chart somewhere right now. Cute enough song, but it didn’t seem like he was a singer at all. He mostly switched between talking the lyrics to the adoring tweens in the crowd and chatting with his equally youthful hype man. His set consisted of coaxing “Brooklyn!” chants from the patient audience and singing along with the songs of much more popular artists. Not sure of the strategy on that one, but it worked. There was enough of him to feel like he was there, but little enough substance to easily delete him for all the mental files on Lauryn you were soon to collect.

As expected, the changeover between acts was excruciating. Not only because it exceeded thirty minutes, but because at that point, if you were employed and unable to wait in line at four in the afternoon for a seat, you were standing somewhere on an uneven plot of unkempt grass in cute shoes. Not helping matters was the jittery Markowitz saying every five minutes, “Her manager says this is how it goes. She is coming.” We were thinking it, but his reassurances that Hill wouldn’t flake were anything but comforting. Once the band streamed onstage, the delay was justified. A procession of at least ten people, including three backup singers, three drummers (including congas), a guitarist, a keyboardist and a horn section filled the stage and began laying down some jazzy funk. Many were on their feet from this point on in anticipation of the star of the show, waiting for this funk interlude to end and the hip-hop show to begin. Well, that happened and it didn’t. After a couple selections, the band simmered down and allowed the entrance for an afro’d figure decked in brown and denim. She was here. Thicker than before, but as beautiful as you remember and jacked with energy. Wasting no time, the funk interlude swelled into a full-blown gospel jaunt, prompting a nearby fan to complain, “Why don’t she just sing?” A few songs later, a woman next to her disdainfully co-signed, “All this jump around music.” Good thing they left early.

Really early. Hill went on to perform for the next 90 minutes, but the impatient or disappointed were seen streaming from their front and center seated and standing positions after just 15 minutes of ‘jump around music.’ From the gospel, Hill launched into an oldie, but goodie, “Lost Ones,” but not as you remember it. This version had a harder, rock edge to it and Hill sped through her lines as if she were daring her own band to keep up with her. Speed was an issue with Hill throughout the night. After finally settling down enough so the audience could sing along with some of the songs, Hill impatiently spurred her band, “Come on, come on. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up. Ow!” This was not the same chick from "Sister Act 2." That sweet, yearning singer was replaced by a howling, Jackie Wilson leg-flipping, arm-waving, revival-leading maniac. Maybe that’s the picture they should have put in the program because a number of the once eager crowd put their recording devices away and sat back through hype versions of Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread,” “When It Hurt So Bad,” “Final Hour” and Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” Eventually, Hill appeased the R&B lovers and slowed things down with the still moving “Ex-Factor” and “Zion.” She continued the chill out session with Roberta Flack’s, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Apologizing for her strained vocal chords, Hill made the crowd forget that this isn’t the Flack cover that made her popular. In an instant, she transformed from the bastard child of Betty Davis and Sly Stone to inhabit the warm elegance that so many of her fans remember.

The remaining loyalists in the crowd, or at least curious gawkers, were rewarded further as Hill reached back to some of her hits as a Fugees member, scatting through “How Many Mics,” “Fu-Gee-La” and “Zealots.” We officially reached the throwback portion of the show as she then steamrolled through rousing renditions of “Killing Me Softly” and “Everything is Everything” that had the crowd jumping off its feet. One of the show’s sponsors must have been Red Bull because Hill never skipped a beat. Good thing she was the only person wearing a leather vest in 90 degree weather or she would have resembled any other fan out there. She seemed to enjoy revisiting the hits as much as the audience.

For an encore, Hill sang one of her new songs, “Lose Myself” that returned to some of the jumpier melodies performed earlier in her set. The chorus, “I lose myself/so I can make it better” felt so poignant considering what we know (or think we know) about her time spent out of the spotlight since "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." She closed the night out asking Brooklyn a question with the assistance of her amazing back-up singers, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” As the voices clamored, “Yeah!” Hill and crew swung into the last hit of the night, “That Thing.”

As the band quieted down and Hill left the stage, her lyrics hung in the air with brand new import, “Things done changed/And you know they not ready.” Things have changed and the hollowed out crowd maybe proved that people are still not ready for what Hill is bringing to the table. Hailed almost a decade ago for her soulful lyrics about heartache and self-fulfillment, Hill has re-emerged seemingly stronger, happier and dancing all over the stage (I was waiting for her tasseled leather vest to fall to the floor only for one of her bandmates to throw it back on her shoulders, but to no avail.). But many of her fans seem stuck in 1998 wanting to hear sob stories that no longer exist. It’s probably for the best. Good thing L Boogie got lost. It helped her find Ms. Hill.

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