Ms. Lauryn Hill @ SSE Hydro, Glasgow, 23 Nov
Despite poor time management and some slightly garbled moments, getting a 75 minute set from Lauryn Hill featuring a couple of Fugees classics feels like a win at this stage
When it's taken as a positive that an artist is only 40 minutes late, it's clear that you're dealing with a singular individual. Such is the infamy of a Lauryn Hill show these days (earlier in the week she was two hours late in Paris); most of the pre-show fun/stress is wondering exactly when – or if – she's going to arrive. Tonight this is exacerbated by main support, Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles, who clearly gets a message to drag it out during his final song and treats us to extended covers of The Bee Gee's Stayin' Alive and Prince's 1999.
After a pointless, time-filling DJ set from DJ Reborn, Lauryn Hill eventually turns out – in a tartan dress – around 10pm and the audience give a collective sigh of relief, launching into a killer rendition of Lost Ones after the iconic classroom Intro. All is seemingly forgiven as she works her way through her classic hits (when you only have one album, pretty much everything is a classic) like Everything is Everything, Forgive Them Father and Ex-Factor. The messages of peace, love and unity in hard times are reinforced by the accompanying videos, showing images of police brutality or joyful students dancing, depending on the mood of the song.
Hill herself is pretty chatty, mixing the expected platitudes with a genuinely heartfelt explanation of her goals behind the The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: "I wanted to make something that used the old soul music of the 70s, but mixed with the sounds of the present [i.e. rap/beats]." It's a simple explanation of the sound of the album, but also alludes to the lyrical mixture; taking the uplifting, positive messages of 70s soul but placing them in a contemporary context (the late 90s, which was frequently fatalistic and despairing). Now recontextualised into our present state of turmoil, this is why the album continues to resonate.
The music all sounds fairly good tonight, and the expressive heights of Hill's voice can really be appreciated on songs like To Zion or Doo Wop (That Thing). But sometimes her raps get a little garbled in the mix and the arrangements occasionally overwhelm what are supposed to be more gentle moments. There's a sense of urgency during later tracks like Can't Take My Eyes Off You and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill that feel as though we're rushing to get to the bigger hits. A pair of Fugees classics, Killing Me Softly With His Song and Ready or Not (the latter with the house lights up), end the show brilliantly, but better time management could've enabled the crowd and the performers to relax into the show a bit more. However, getting 75 minutes of solid Lauryn Hill feels like a win at this stage.