Last night I saw Lauryn Hill. Not on the internet, not on the television, but in real life. I’ve been wanting to see her for so long, and I finally got the chance. I went with the full expectation that she was going to be spectacular and she truly was. However, many in the crowd in Miami Gardens, FL probably wouldn’t agree. Let me break it down for you.
1) Lauryn Hill was the headliner or the last act after a long line up. There was Al Jarreau & Lalah Hathaway, both of whom I missed because I was late. The crowd claimed that Al Jarreau was drunk and that he wasn’t any good. I don’t believe it because this particular crowd didn’t seem to have discriminating taste when it came to music. Bobby Brown, Ralph & Johnny were there too. They were the epitome of a washed up group, but the crowd loved them. Their voices were beat down, and they were boring. I felt like something was wrong with me because these people were going nuts for this crap. It was like the way people run to buy Sunny D instead of real orange juice. Next came Charlie Wilson. Charlie Wilson is about 58 years old and he is the consummate professional. Great voice, engaged the crowd, danced and was sticking the moves, he was great. I’ve seen him before with the Gap band, so I expected no less than what I got.
2) Charlie went off at 10:45pm with his hit “There Goes My Baby.” He was scheduled to go off at around 10:00, but he has a bunch of music, plus he played new music too. Lauryn was scheduled to go on at 10:30pm, somehow some the crowd began to get negative about Lauryn while Charlie was still on. They blamed her for him going over. They said she was the reason. I didn’t get it. They got more show, but started complaining immediately.
3) Around 11:45 Lauryn Hill hits the stage, so technically she was only about 30 mins late because there is usually about a 30 min lull between sets. Let me just say the liquor shut down at 10:30, so you know…happy drunks were getting sober and turning into cranky people looking for another drink.
4) She came out to a crowd that was about 80% full because 20% left before she came on. I wasn’t prepared to wait 2 hours, but 30 mins didn’t seem unreasonable. The crowd seemed to be caught up in the “we’re mad at Lauryn” wave that’s been going around the internet. It’s probably big in Miami too because Wyclef and Pras have done a great job trashing her when she wanted to be producer on a new album they were working on. Miami is full of first, second, and third generation West Indians, so they might choose Wyclef over Lauryn, but I’m just guessing. Although, I thought the whole beef between them seemed like a sexist move on the parts of Clef, Pras & Jerry Wonder, who thought they should be the only ones to produce despite the fact that Lauryn has produced artists like Aretha & Mary J.
5) She came out with a fly jacket on, a dope skirt on, a sick pair of earrings, a cool hat, a nice tee-shirt and a stylish scarf. They all worked on their own, but not together. When dressing you must decide whether you will be fly, dope, cool, sick, stylish or nice-looking, but they shouldn’t all be done together. Tameka Raymond used to dress Lauryn, and I think she should go back to relying on a stylist.
6) Next she stated that she would do old songs and tracks, and immediately went into something none of us had heard before. Another 10% of the crowd bolted toward the exits, which was great for me because I moved up closer.
7) Then came all the hits and the artistry. However, they came to us in new arrangements. They didn’t sound like the radio versions, which I thought was AWESOME!!!! She gave us some ridiculous music. The new arrangements were sick. She lost another 20% of the crowd by presenting herself as the artist that she is now, and not the one she was back in 1998. As an artist I totally understood the evolution, and the need not to repeat the same things over and over. It’s not expression if you just do it and do it again the same way. It’s more like production and being a technician.
8) My husband said that she asked them not to leave, I didn’t hear that. I just know that she was presenting her new masterpieces, and that she is definitely ready to give us new music.
9) Internet reports always talk about how she verbally berates or at best over-instructs her band. She did that last night a lot. It felt like she was a bit obsessive or insecure. The best artists are that way. The key is to hide the behind the scenes perfectionist that creates the work, so that you don’t alarm your audience or come off as a rigid tyrant. We got a little rigid tyrant vibe from her. Plus, she didn’t do the “this is my band, aren’t they wonderful” piece that we usually see from vocalists.
10) Overall, I got the sense that Lauryn is afraid of us. She seemed afraid to truly connect with the audience. She tried a bit at the end, but not really. She might be out of practice with performing live, but it seemed like fear to me. It seemed like she was afraid we wouldn’t appreciate her, and many in the crowd didn’t. It’s funny how our energy creates situations we claim we don’t want. Concerning the show itself, she could also benefit from a professional stage manager who will make her adhere to a formula that works for the everyday audience. We love her and she will continue to draw crowds even if they just want to say “yes, I saw her and she wasn’t all that” like many from the crowd last night.
She’s actually in Miami tonight at Grand Central. I really would love to go see her again, but I need to get back home. I still might throw caution to the wind and go. That’s how refreshing it was to see a real artist do her thing.
Update: Just found out that Lauryn will be in the Tampa Bay area in just three short days, and I will be there again!!! Yippee! Here’s the review of that!