On the latest leg of Lauryn Hill’s already notorious tour marking the 20th anniversary of her r’n b masterpiece The Miseducation Of… the clock had struck 9.30pm and of the singer there was not a trace. Hill has been tardy on her trot around Europe, sometimes arriving late and performing short sets.
Her eccentric time-keeping, the artist (43) had subsequently explained on Twitter, was born out of a need to “align her energy”. “I don’t have an on/off switch. I am at my best when I am open, rested, sensitive and liberated to express myself as truthfully as possible.”
At around 9.50 pm, with Hill’s band already in place for several minutes, the lights dimmed and here she was – focused, passionate and slaying the room with her force of nature vocals on the Lost Ones and Everything Is Everything.
Having recently departed the Fugees, the expectation in 1998 was that Hill would take a while to find her footing as a solo artist. The opposite proved to be the case. Miseducation was released in August of that year and immediately hailed a classic.
Two decades and 18 million record sales later, the power of what Hill accomplished on the record is undiminished.
Overcoming sound issues, and the distracting choice of what looked like a leopard-print dressing gown paired with a 1970s football supporter hat, she blazed through ‘When It Hurts So Bad’ and ‘Final Hour’.
Images of Nina Simone were projected on the video screen — a hat-tipping Hill more than lived up to as she uncorked her sensitive sandblaster voice.
As 11.30pm loomed and she reached ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’, a cover of Lori Lieberman’s ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’ (a hit for Fugees) and the Fugees smash ‘Ready Or Not’ the room had been reduced to one huge, swooning mass.
A little more punctuality and it would have been the crowning moment in a gold-plated, five-star performance.