Lauryn Hill, IndigO2 | New music reviews, news & interviews
Lauryn Hill, IndigO2
The former Fugee's first UK performance in five years silences the doubters
Lauryn Hill is back, and not just literally. Making her first UK appearance in five years, she silenced the doubters with a fully commanding and controlling show. A spellbound crowd watched as she wiped out the memory of years of disappointing concerts, reinvigorating her unmatchable prowess in a 100-minute set taking in songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a selection of Fugees classics and some stunning Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley covers.
Back in 1998, the mainstream hadn't bargained for the revelation that was Hill’s first (and to date only) solo album; no-one quite anticipated the classic that she produced, full of music that approached being a woman with such passion, at once personal and universal. It sold eight million copies but its creator backed away from fame. Recent appearances have been plagued with negative reviews about a disinterested artist going through the motions.
As a singer, rapper and conductor of the show, she relished the chance for reinvention
But last night was different, an entirely selfless revelation. We weren't witness to recreations of the studio incarnations of her music, but the new, abstract arrangements showcased her control, drive and focus: minimal between-song chat and a ferocious stage presence made Hill’s intentions clear.
As a singer, rapper and conductor of the show, she clearly relished the chance for reinvention. An eight-piece band framed her as she rode new rhythms, each choice pushing towards new limits. While her voice now has more rasp than previously, she knows exactly how to use it. Songs were twisted into new shapes, reimagined freely, although the rousing, chesty bridge of “Killing Me Softly” and opening chimes of “Doo Wop (That Thing)” remained untampered with.
The breathtaking force of Hill’s rapping on “Lost Ones” left the audience hypnotised as it led into that huge, triumphant chorus. “Ready or Not"'s statement of intent could have been written yesterday, while “Everything Is Everything” settled its groove into a new, wiser place. Her poetry on the joys and pains of love and life are of a certain time, but their lifeblood is Lauryn Hill rather than the moments themselves. No other artist puts their heart on the line in the same way.
The success of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is indisputable, but not even the audience’s greatest optimists could have banked for the blinding performance we witnessed in such intimate surroundings. While everyone present may have had an opinion on what they wanted from this show, there was only one artist in control.
Watch Lauryn Hill singing "Doo Wop"
Share this article
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
American institution returns to the Seventies again
A powerful, genre-defying debut album from the shape-shifting ensemble
Kid-friendly festival has an audience as eclectic as the line-up
Booker T Jones' set of Sixties hits wows the crowd - but is Damon Albarn's new solo material a touch too subtle to headline?
Fink's latest is a mixed bag of the inspired and aerated
Thompson goes solo for a deft career retrospective
Belated recognition for a unique singer-songwriter
More top-drawer nostalgia from the prolific Scotsman
Rising London electronic duo don't quite match their hype
Elly Jackson has matured musically in her absence: but is that for the best?
Vivid and wide-ranging tribute to New Orleans musical traditions
An album that aches with a spiritual yearning by this singular artist