To the surprise of no one, Lauryn Hill was a little late taking the stage for her headlining slot that closed out Pitchfork Music Festival. Her DJ was rolling through 90’s rap hits like “Party Up” and “If I Ruled The World” to get the crowd hyped, which worked for a while. About fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time, a video played on the giant screen behind the musicians who had taken their spots. I’m not sure if it’s a clever wink or merely coincidence that the video starts with a teacher taking attendance and Lauryn Hill is nowhere to be found.
She did hit the stage, though, and once she did it was wall-to-wall killers. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill set the bar for genre-defying hip hop and R&B at a ridiculously high level. So much so that I don’t think anyone has topped it. The album is twenty years old now, and this tour that Ms. Lauryn Hill is on is a celebration of its power.
The last time I saw her perform was at music festival in Austin, TX. She sat for the duration of the show and strummed a guitar. Half of the set was reggae covers. It was ok, but not really what I wanted. Last night was a complete 180. She came out and delivered a blistering version of “Lost Ones” and had seemingly been rejuvenated. Her band was delivering the same kind of energy and the whole thing felt much more alive.
I had some reservations when the lineup was announced and she was headlining the final night. But then I saw her performance at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame where she was honoring Nina Simone. It was brilliant and a lot of my worry melted away. Still, festivals are a different sort of thing, and she’s shown some disdain for being on time and performing the hits. Fortunately she came out and played everyone’s old favorites with a passion that had been missing for a long time.