Review: Lauryn Hill proves she still has that thing

Review: Lauryn Hill proves she still has that thing
Ms. Lauryn Hill, at Musgrave Park, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Lauryn Hill hill closes series of summer gigs in Cork, writes Des O'Driscoll. As the inaugural series of gigs at Musgrave Park came to a close with Lauryn Hill, organisers confirmed they are hoping to run more shows at the Cork venue next year.

Beginning last Thursday with George Ezra and finishing last night with the former Fugees singer, the concerts proved a popular addition to the already-busy summer roster on Leeside, with crowds of upto 12,000 at each of the six events at the rugby stadium.

Denis Desmond, the Cork-born owner of promoters MCD, said it was great to be back in his native city. “Thank you to the artistes, gardaí, licensing authorities, medics and the 500 staff, security, and more importantly, the 70,000 people who came and helped make this first run of shows a huge success. We look forward to returning next year.”

As well as the main acts, the gigs have also given Cork audiences a glimpse of emerging artists. Liam Gallagher was almost upstaged on a rainy Sunday by the charisma of Gerry Cinnamon, and last night 16-year-old Brighton singer Isabelle Brown marked our cards that we might be watching a star of the future with an accomplished set of soul tunes.

After a dancehall-style warm-up from her tour DJ, Hill took to the stage at 9.05pm. There was sigh of relief for all concerned as a late start at 3Arena last year had underlined a reputation for a tardiness that wouldn't suit the curfew for gigs in this residential area of southside Cork.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, at Musgrave Park, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Ms. Lauryn Hill, at Musgrave Park, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Dressed in a dark trouser suit and hat, the 44-year-old launched into 'Lost Ones', the opening track from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill record released just over 20 years ago. That album established her as a heavyweight of the neo soul genre. Despite its multi-million selling success, however, Hill had never looked comfortable with her star status, and was unable to hit such musical heights again.

Not that the Musgrave Park crowd cared as they were treated to the bulk of the tracks from an album that still stands up to a modern listen.

Those sweet soul vocals soared with the aid of three backing singers, while her qualifications as a rapper of distinction could be heard on the reggae-tinged 'Forgive Them Father'. She also performed a cover of Bob Marley's 'Zimbabwe', a song Hill presumably doesn't have to pay to use, given that five of her children came from her union with Marley's son Rohan. Along the way, a decent, if less-than-capacity crowd swayed and sung along with every word.

Sound quality was mixed, and the singer seemed unsatisfied with her own monitors. She did stay engaged with the crowd, speaking warmly of the soul music she heard as a kid at home, and how her album took some of those influences and mixed it with her hip-hop tastes. That combination made for a fine album, and a decent gig all these years later. After about an hour, a rousing version of her classic 'Doo Wop (That Thing)' brought the night to an end. She did come back on stage to acknowledge the crowd, but an encore wasn't forthcoming. She heads to Glastonbury at the weekend, leaving her Cork fans with a taste for more.

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