It warms my heart to see that, a full 20 years after the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ms. Hill is still out here showing up hours late to concerts, and then not singing very well if and when she does finally decide to grace the audience with her presence, if only because, in 2018, it’s a relief to hear that a black celebrity is still alive, but also because I’m awed by the sheer strength of her troll game.
I’m half-tempted to cop a ticket to her show here in the STL in October just to be able to one day tell my grandkids (or someone else’s grandkids, if I don’t have any of my own) that I once allowed Lauryn Hill to waste my time and money.
I saw Lauryn Hill live once before, at a festival here in St. Louis a couple of years ago. She was listed, on the Coachella-style lineup poster, as one of the headliners, but my recollection is that she went on in the afternoon or early evening. I wonder if the promoter purposely hired another headliner-level act, LCD Soundsystem, to play that prime 8 PM time slot, in case she didn’t show up.
I was surprised to see that she did in fact show up on time. Er, more or less on time. It took a few minutes for her band to take the stage, and then they played for a while before she wandered out onstage like a lost senior citizen, which, in a sense, she was. As many fans have remarked, her songs, in concert, don’t sound anything like how they sound on the record, but not because they’ve somehow been reinterpreted. It just sounds like the musicians don’t know what they’re doing, and they sped the tempos up so you wouldn’t notice. That might be part of the reason why she doesn’t start singing until 20 minutes into her set time: she’s only got one (solo) album that anyone gives a shit about, and they’re playing it at double speed.
Apparently, festival dates like the one I saw went well enough that the TIs allowed her to book a fairly extensive and potentially lucrative tour to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the aforementioned Miseducation. It kicked off the other day at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, where she was one of the headliners, and it’s set to continue well into the fall. Tickets for the STL date, in a college basketball stadium, start at $50, for shitty seats way up in the rafters, and go all the way up to over $200, for floor seats.
Kicking off the tour with a set at Pitchfork was a savvy move on her part, both because she didn’t have to sweat trying to sell 20,000 tickets on her own (people were already there to see Open Mike Eagle), and because the kind of people who would attend such an event would likely be hesitant to (publicly) criticize a mentally ill older black woman, even if it were warranted. How ironic that Lauryn Hill once supposedly spoke out against white people buying her albums, and now she benefits from the polite deference of a subsequent generation of CACs.
It remains to be seen what will happen with the rest of the tour. I read somewhere that she’s bringing in ringers, including Nas, MIA, Dave Chappelle and A$AP Rocky, presumably to make up for the fact that she’s only got half an hour’s worth of songs that anyone wants to hear, and probably also as insurance, in case she just plain doesn’t show up. I’m not paying $50 to sit in the rafters at a Lauryn Hill concert, and I couldn’t pay $200 to sit on the floor if I wanted to, but if I did, and it ended up being a Nas and Dave Chappelle show instead, that would actually be better for me personally. (If it ended up being an A$AP Rocky concert, I would physically assault the promoter.)
Yesterday, it was announced that seven upcoming dates, in July and August, have been either postponed or canceled, supposedly due to “unforeseen production issues.” Which raises the question: What could she possibly be bringing out onstage that takes two months to fix, a P-Funk-style mothership? Most likely, she wasn’t selling enough tickets. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up having to cancel the whole thing.
I’d suggest bringing Tekashi 6ix9ine on as an opener, but Nikki Minaj already took that idea.
Take it easy on yourself,