News Column

Concert Review: Lauryn Hill at The Uptown Theater

June 17, 2014

By Andrew Gaug, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.



June 17--The biggest mistake some Lauryn Hill fans made at her show on June 16 was having any expectations concerning what the iconic soul-rapper would bring to the Kansas City stage.

Her first performance in the area since 1999, Hill has seemingly spent 12 years out of the spotlight after releasing the questionable "Unplugged No. 2.0." Still, it seemed like most of the sold out crowd expected her to be the same sunny pop star she was in the late '90s.

Arriving on-stage about 90 minutes after the show's start time, with the crowd worked into a frenzy from the opening set by her DJ, DJ Rampage, Hill delivered, but not in the way the crowd wanted.

After a raucous introduction, where Hill's incredibly energetic eight-piece band played Bob Marley's "Soul Rebel" as Hill sang from backstage, the crowd's energy died down as she ran through an odd, Rastified version of her cover of Lori Leiberman's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," which lead into an off-balance rock and reggae version of her hit "Everything is Everything," where she motor-mouthed its rap section at a pace completely different from the band.

As Hill continued through the first part of her set, her interactions with the crowd kept mainly to announcing song titles and saying "Kansas City!" and "Come on, come on," as she constantly waved at her band to adjust their volume and energy, the audience's reactions went from jubilant to confused to disappointed.

Despite that, Hill seemed quite happy to be back on stage, showing many reasons why she can still sell out a venue like The Uptown with no album or hit single in about 15 years. As she danced, spit rhymes at a machine gun pace and belted out each song like it was the night's show-stopper, there was no quit in her during the two hour set.

Despite the confusing, frenetic pace of the show's opening songs, the concert improved as Hill settled in to the show's acoustic middle section that included several songs from "Unplugged 2.0," as well as Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low." During it, the heat from The Uptown dissipated and Hill's impressive and heartfelt vocals were no longer fighting with an overpowering mix that was heavy on bass.

After, Hill asked "Are there any Fugees fans here?" And she won the crowd over again.

Blasting through a cover of The Flamingos' "I Have Eyes Only For You" that segued into The Fugees' "Zealots," an odd mash-up if there ever was one, Hill's final lap covered all her bases,from a proper version of "Killing Me Softly" to "Ready or Not" to "Doo Wop (That Thing)" as the show's closer.

The Lauryn Hill people expected -- the timid, soulful one that was content to sing beautiful R & B songs and rap inspiring verses about being empowered was still in fine form, just covered in a reggae and rock shell that wanted to blend The Police's "Can't Stand Losing You" with The Fugees' classic "How Many Mics?"

Hill made it clear from the beginning of the show things were different this time around, whether people wanted to accept it or not. Judging by the constant cheers from fans, even after odd jams and a long wait, they, like a song title off of her "Unplugged 2.0" album suggests, just want her around.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug?.

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(c)2014 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at www.newspressnow.com/index.html

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Source: St. Joseph News-Press (MO)


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