Gig Review by Kamara Bennett with photography by Lee Allen

Lauryn Hill

After stumbling upon a couple of not-so-complimentary reviews of previous tour dates, it seemed appropriate to expect the unexpected from Ms Lauryn Hill’s Tuesday night visit to Birmingham. Despite the cost of tickets, the academy attracted a mixed, multi-generational crowd – a true testament to the timeless, transcendent nature of ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, Lauryn Hill’s debut solo album – now well over a decade old and still widely cited as a key favorite of many.

Lauryn Hill

In the hours leading up to Ms Hill’s 10pm-ish arrival onto stage, two back-to-back DJ sets entertained the room with 90s/00’s R&B, Hip Hop and Reggae… not forgetting the occasional on-mic comment, including a warning that “this is not going to be your average show”, a statement that proved prophetic, for sure. After some of the slower, more conscious records in the DJ’s collection, such as Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’ and ‘Buffalo Soldier’, which amassed plenty of sing-along action, it wasn’t long before the crowd became restless waiting in anticipation for the legend that is Lauryn Hill to grace the stage.

Lauryn Hill

Supported by a live band and a trio of backing singers, the DJ-set transitioned naturally into the funky reggae sounds of ‘Soul Rebel’ – met, of course, with cheers and excitement as Lauryn Hill emerged from the side of the academy stage. The show quickly took an experimental turn during ‘Killing Me Softly’, though, and even more so during ‘Everything Is Everything’. In fact, from then onwards, between the musical reinterpretations and the quality of the sound, the tracks performed rendered unrecognisable, for most people, for the first third of the show at least. Luckily, Hill’s unmistakable stage presence reassured the crowd that they were indeed in the right place.

Lauryn HillLauryn Hill

For those who were expecting more than a live version of ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, this new experimental sound was probably more interesting than disappointing. In exchange for Ms Hill’s signature blend of Hip-Hop, R&B and Soul, the audience were treated to a more eclectic jazz-sounding mix, still showcasing Hill’s renowned vocal prowess – with each rapped verse prompting bursts of cheer and excitement from the crowd. Some tracks received a better reception than others, and crowd favourites included ‘Zion’. While concert-goers appeared lost at times, the on-stage energy remained at an optimum level – with the backing singers, band and Lauryn appearing lively and animated throughout. Despite the band sounding like they were playing twice the normal speed, Ms Hill made time to speak and interact with the crowd often.

Lauryn Hill

The interaction between Lauryn Hill and her team didn’t go unnoticed either, and, judging by her hand gestures and motioning towards the monitors on stage, there were a few technical issues with the sound. Nonetheless, Hill demonstrated her ability to command the stage and her band, merging choreography and movements similar to that of a musical conductor whilst doing so.

Lauryn Hill

After exiting the stage for a short break, Ms Lauryn Hill returned seated with guitar in tow, marking the beginning of her acoustic set and a part of the show where she further showcased her musical talent and artistry, serenading the crowd with a series of unplugged hits including ‘Turn The Lights Down Low’. An hour into the concert, it was the Fugees classics that finally got the crowd moving, with the familiarity of the melody and the lyrics giving everyone want they wanted – something to sing along to. As the show continued, and up until its closing moments, the energy and level of engagement amongst the crowd increased exponentially with Lauryn performing various well-loved classics such as ‘Jammin’ and closing the show with chart-topper ‘Doo Wop’.

Lauryn Hill

Soul Rebel / Killing Me Softly / Everything Is Everything / Final Hour / Zion / Lost Ones / Ex-Factor / Black Rage / Mr International / Adam Lives in Theory / Jerusalem / Water / Turn Your Lights Down Low /  I Only Have Eyes for You / Zealots / How Many Mics / Fu-Gee-La / Ready or Not / Killing Me Softly / Jammin / Master Blaster / Satisfy My Soul / Is This Love / Could You Be Loved / Doo Wop (That Thing)

See the complete Lauryn Hill album on our Flickr page.

Lauryn Hill

Leave a Reply