Considering this is Lauryn Hill’s first UK headline show in 5 years, and given her reputation for giving unpredictable performances, the crowd at the indig02 nervously stood waiting and wondering if she was even going to show up to her London show - let alone perform well.
It’s been over a decade since the critically-acclaimed 'The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill', but it still remains one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, even making it onto Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums Of All Time,’ which is the reason she still packs out venues despite the eccentric behaviour and cryptic proselytizing that has come to characterise her shows.
Although the audience is fairly restless, Lauryn takes to the stage at a very reasonable 9.30pm, looking every inch a ghetto superstar in a floor-length gold dress combined with army parka jacket, accessorized with some serious gold jewellery.
The crowd immediately starts chanting “Lauryn Lauryn,” to which Lauryn replies with “London London,” before throwing herself into singing ‘I Get Out.’ If there are any questions about whether she still has it, they are swiftly quashed by her strong and clear vocals.
She tells the audience: “A lot has happened and I’ve missed you, but we cut through so we can get back to doing what needs to be done.”
And this is precisely what Lauryn does tonight as she begins with a medley of songs from The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, including ‘Everything Is Everything’ with a skillful acapella finale, ‘Superstar’ with its sampling of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ and a powerful rendition of ‘Forgive Them Father.’
With strong electric guitar and drum arrangements, the first half of the show has a rockier edge than we are used to seeing from Lauryn, especially on ‘Final Hour’ and the sweeping ‘To Zion,’ where Lauryn’s backing band are each given a chance to show their skills with a series of solos.
Mid-way through the tempo slows down, and Lauryn shows off her gospel influences as she performs ‘Sweetest Thing,’ ‘When It Hurts So Bad’ and ‘I Used To Love Him.’
Her soaring vocals on ‘Nothing Even Matters’ are complimented by her male backing singer who stands in for D’Angelo, but then Lauryn changes the pace with an emotional performance of ‘Lost Ones’ and ‘The Ex Factor.’
During the show Lauryn is obviously unhappy with the sound, and she takes this opportunity to slow things down again and sort it out, telling the audience (and the sound engineers): “Let’s mellow it down to get the levels right.”
A low-tempo cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Satisfy My Soul’, ‘Could You Be Loved’ and ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’ are superbly executed, and the Marley tribute is rounded off with a funk-tinged version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Master Blaster (Jammin).’
Lauryn picks up the pace once more, asking “How many Fugees fans do we have in the house tonight?” eliciting screams from all corners of the venue, before launching into a high-energy Fugees medley of ‘How Many Mics,’ ‘Fu-gee-La’ and ‘Ready Or Not.’
The night finished with a powerful performance of ‘Do- Wop (That Thing),’ showing off her legendary machine-gun delivery and tomboy swagger. It was the perfect end to a blisteringly good set, leaving the audience in no doubt that she has left the problems of last decade behind her and is back on track to reclaim her place as one of the greatest artists of recent decades.