I was fully aware of what was potentially in store for me when I purchased tickets to see Lauryn Hill play The Mezzanine. Tales told of showing up unremorsefully late, being inebriated during the show, and heckling the crowd just to name a few things. However, when it was announced that Lauryn Hill would be performing a Bob Marley tribute at The Mezzanine in a week, I snatched up a ticket like Cookie Monster devours his favorite treats. I’m a Bob Marley fan as much as the next person, but it was mostly imagining seeing one of the seminal artists of my youth in such an intimate setting. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was on constant rotation on my Panasonic portable CD player, as I would attempt to learn the rap in “Doo Wop (That Thing)”.
Despite knowing the possibility of being massively disappointed was real, I eagerly anticipated seeing L-Boogie perform right before my eyes.
In order to circumvent the wait I knew was inevitable, I didn’t arrive until 10:45 pm, subsequently missing Dead Prez who was announced late as the opener. The DJ however, did provide a dancelicious mix of Biggie, Too $hort, the late great, Nate Dogg, and Dr. Dre, getting the crowd of mostly thirty-somethings reliving their high school dances. Bob Marley’s iconic face graced the projected images on the big screen next to the stage.
Around 11:50pm, Ms. Hill’s band began taking the stage to sound check. At this point, I’ll admit I began to worry how long it would be before she herself would come out. The wait turned out to be no more than 10 minutes, and then there she was, dressed in a brown hat atop of her famous fro, and adorned with golden bangles and a red frock, she greeted the crowd and had us all reaffirm our love for Bob Marley. The cameras and phones were out in a flash to capture the beautiful Lauryn Hill, relatively on time.
Hill went right into two deep cut Bob Marley songs to separate who the true fans were from people like me. The songs I did know were “Trench Town”, “Stir it up”, “Waiting in Vain”, and “Is This Love”; all up-tempo versions which she animatedly tried to get the sound guy to turn up in her monitor. After that proved to be unsuccessful to her, she asked the crowds permission to switch it up to her own songs to which she received a big affirmative from the crowd. Up first was “Everything is Everything”, followed by “Sweetest Thing” and “Intro”, and then later, “Ready or Not” a Fugee fan favorite.
I suppose if one were expecting her to perform her songs as they are on the album, then one might have been disappointed because each song had a very different structure. However, if you think Lauryn Hill now is the same person she was back in 1998, then you’d be wrong. It’s very clear that whatever demons might have plagued her in the past were nowhere in sight now. Why wouldn’t the songs reflect that aspect of a woman so talentedly articulate of her own feelings? She was having a good time and fully engaging with the crowd, especially the ladies who were out in full force for their girl, Lauryn.
In no way shape or form should some bad shows mar the legacy of this truly great singer and songwriter because quite frankly, no one in recent years has been able to match her talent. This particular show proved that she still has it. And after all, Lauryn is only human.