What a load of shizzle!!!
I managed to get tickets to the Lauryn Hill concert at the Hammersmith Apollo on July 8th about 2-3 months ago. I was understandably very excited about this, as she has always been one of my all time best female vocalists mainly for her originality and sheer undeniable talent. I even turned down the opportunity to get reasonably priced tickets for the Concert for Diana the preceding weekend, figuring that seeing L-boogie would make up for that. BTW, P Diddy rocked the house that day (i saw it on tv). I dont even like the guy, but he really did bring down the house. He was awesome!
Anyway, i began to count down the days to the concert with great anticipation. The only other 'major'concert i've been too was the Anita Baker concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. I mean she was fabulous!!!!! Words fail me. She delivered and some more....
Finally sha, the day arrived and i made my way down to Hammersmith to hook up with my tripping buddy. The excitement in the air was palpable. The crowd consisted mainly of die hard fans excited at the prospect of seeing their 'idol' who had been on hiatus indefinitely and on the brink of releasing a new album any time soon (or so we've been hearing for the past 2 years or so).
Anyways, the queues begin to move, and we finally make it into the venue and find our seat up in the Circle. By now, its about 7:30 pm. The supporting act fails to materialise and after about half an hour of dead silence apart from the buzz of the crowd, a DJ appears on stage and begins to spin some 'toons'. Ok, so by 8:30pm (the show was scheduled to begin at 8pm) i begin to get a bit peeved. I recall that the last time she was scheduled to play in London, she failed to come out of her dressing room, or something like that and the crowd had to be sent home. Anyway, i choose to keep the faith and pop out into the foyer to purchase some over-priced snacks. Me and tripping buddy begin to munch disgruntledly as we wait, daring each other to boo loudly when Ms Hill finally deigns to step out.
Ok, 9pm, and i am royally cheesed off by now, as are several others around us. A further 20 mins later, the band spills out onto stage. I've never seen such a large band before. Very easily 15-strong. I mean, even Anita (a far bigger star in my opinion) had about 5 musicians). Anyhoo, Ms thing finally makes an appearance, looking like a wannabe Macy Gray circa 1999. You know, big messy afro, baggy clothes etc.
The show kicks off with a rendition of a Bob Marley song ( not being a BM fan, i cannot recall which). The music is extremely loud. As in, ear piercingly loud and we are seated no where near a loud speaker. The background vocalists sound shrill and off key and they drown Ms Hill out completely to the extent that you cannot make head or tail of what she is singing. After about 5 mins or so of torture, the song ends and Ms Hill annouces to the crowd (no apology for her lateness, mind you) that this tour is a rehabilitation for her, whatever that means.
She now launches into several weird numbers that i can only describe as a weird pastiche of reggae cum afro beat cum God knows what else. Completely unrecognisable lyrics. She finally brings it home to some of her tracks off of the Miseducation album. These are however near unrecognisable too as she mangles the melody line beyond recognition, virtually shouting the lyrics out in a weird and raspy voice. At this stage everyone is just watching in horror, too stunned to even applaud at the end of each song. Did i also mention that she has been prancing around the stage like a headless chicken on LSD all the while.
She finally calms down enough to ask us 'how y'all doing?' At this stage people begin to boo. The sadist in me finds this very funny and i begin to giggle. Tripping buddy joins in the booing. Ms Hill finally sees sense and very shrewdly launches into a renditon of ohh la la la, which gets the fickle crowd going. This is followed by Ready or Not. She finally winds down enough to give us a rendition of The First Time Ever i Saw Your Face, and we manage to get a glimpse of the old Lauryn magic, albeit sounding a bit raspy in places.
Unfortunately, the speed/LSD kicks in again. Hey, maybe thats what she was doing back stage during the weird less than 5 minute intermission that she and the band took. Who knows. Anyway, everything else is a blur. Several people walk out in disgust. We foolishly hang on, hoping things will improve. Not soon enough, the show comes to and end with a rendition of That Thing, which is passably good. Prior to that, i think she also did Lose Yourself one of her new tracks which was so-so.
Final verdict - A waste of my Sunday evening. Thank God, i took the following day off from work. If you are a fan of Lauryn Hill and expect her new stuff to pick up from where 'Miseducation' left off, or to even feature any of the sparks of genius from her 'MTV unplugged' album, then, i tell you mate, you're in for a big shock. She has branched out big time into God knows what. I sure don't. Will she lose her old fan base? Without a doubt. Will she find a new fan base? I really wouldn't hold my breath, to be honest. Who knows, only time will tell.