By now you’ve all probably heard about Lauryn Hill’s poorly reviewed concert in Oakland this past weekend. One of my best friends in the world, Lauren, drove from Modesto to Oakland for the show and called me on Sunday to break it down. And it was a long and depressing conversation, y’all.
Let me begin with a bit of back story. Back in 1998 — almost ten years ago, as hard as THAT is to believe, Lauren and I were freshmen at the University of Miami, hanging out with the same fabulously crazy bunch of chicks. We went with a big group of people to the Bob Marley Festival, an annual local event that has had a controversial history — click here to read an unfortunately uncomfortable interview yours truly had with Damian Marley about the fest.
Back in the day, the festival was just legendary. That year, Erykah Badu, the Marleys, and Lauryn Hill all graced the stage, but Lauryn stole the show. Miseducation had just dropped — long enough for all of us to know the words, but it was still a new album. And she just ripped it on stage, sang her heart out, and brought tears to my eyes. Everything is Everything. Lost Ones. Ex-Factor. She was killing us softly. She brought out Zion on stage when she sang To Zion — he was just a little baby, then. To this day, that experience ranks among my top five concert experiences of all time. And my girl Lauren was right there, feeling the spirit with me.
Flash forward, nine years hence. Lauren agreed with this SF Gate concert review for the most part, she says “the band was way too loud, feedback was horrible, there was screeching.” She also told me that the boos from the audience were audible and embarrassing, and crowds of people left to request refunds. But she says the second half of the show was better, and the die-hard fans stuck around till the end in the hopes that Lauryn Hill would turn it all around. This brief video clip reveals that she got her voice under control, but it’s clear to me that Lauryn Hill is still struggling to get herself together.
Lauryn, we feel you. We know you’re not a caricature. We’re not frightened of an articulate, intelligent, spiritual woman. We applaud and celebrate your newfound strength and core of artistic integrity. But for the price of a concert ticket, we want the kind of professional, skilled, awe-inspiring performance we’ve seen you do in years past. We all know you have it in you. We’re just waiting for you to remind us.