Monday, February 14, 2011

Live Review - Ms. Lauryn Hill

A couple of weeks ago my two sisters and I went to see Ms. Lauryn Hill at Sound Academy.

As you may know, her current tour has been plagued by bad reviews.  Tales of a four hour wait. Talk of different arrangements for her song. An arrogant attitude towards her audience. Here is footage from one of the first shows from the tour in New York.:

Then again ?uestlove from The Roots live tweeted during one of her NY shows and pronounced her well worth the wait.

So, who’s right? It depends on your interpretation.

Yes we were waiting for three hours for her to take the stage.  The doors opened at 9 and she came on at 12.  However 12AM is not so unusual for this type concert IF you have either an opening act (or two) or the doors open later (around 10:30).  For me, it wasn’t too much of a problem, since the House DJ’s were spinning Old Skool Hip Hop. But I can see where people might be annoyed.

When she finally came on stage, she was joined by one of the largest bands I’ve seen: three guitarists, three backup singers, two keyboards, bass, drums and a DJ.

She started out the evening with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Forever Loving Jah” to “bless the stage”.  She then got the crowd going with “Lost One”s and slowed it back down with a new arrangement of “When It Hurts So Bad”.  Her next song was a 20 minute version of “Ex Factor”.  Yes, you read that right.  “Ex Factor” was 20 minutes.

So, are the new arrangements that bad? Personally I loved them and I understand why she might do that.  Remember that these songs are about 12 years old at this point.  She’s not only grown as a person but also as a musician.  In the interests of fairness, I’ll let you decide.

Here is the original version of “Ex Factor”:

The original is based on a sample of the Wu Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple”, which in modified form is the first line of the song. It’s a soul ballad climaxing in an ad lib section by Lauryn and a guitar solo outro.

Elena Lau also attended that night, recorded most of the show and uploaded it to YouTube. Here is Part 1 of  her recording of “Ex Factor”:

Live, it starts out with a funk jam led by syncopated drums.  Eventually the drums settle down into a backbeat with a 16th note pattern on the hi hats and Lauryn launches into the song. It builds to the ad lib section with just Lauryn, her back up singers and the drummer playing a pattern on the toms along with the backbeat.  That leads to her guitarist doing a blistering solo then going back to the ad lib section with the drums. Then Lauryn slows it down and starts the song again.

Here is Part 2 of “Ex Factor”:

This time it’s a soul ballad (although slightly different arrangement from the original).  Again it builds to an ad lib, guitar solo then back to an epic ad lib finale where Lauryn riffs on the phrase “feel this love”.

The first half of the show was devoted to her solo material. Other songs she sung were “Final Hour” “Zion” and “Zimbabwe”.

Then Lauryn started playing the Fugees material.  I’ve got to say, L Boogie can still rock the mic with the best of them.  She not only did her verses, but also handled Clef’s and Pras’ as well.

Here she starts off with a cover version of The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes for You” which then leads into “Zealots” which had sampled it:

Other Fugees tracks she performed were “Ready or Not” and “Fu Gee La”.  By and large the Fugees songs stuck closely to the original arrangements.

Lauryn left the stage as the band started another song. After the into, Bob Marley’s voice came on the PA singing “Turn Your Lights Down Low”. After the first verse Lauryn came back on stage and sang a virtual duet with Bob Marley.

The next song was the Fugees cover version of “Killing Me Soflty”.  Here it is:

Finally she ended the evening with “That Thing”.  Two hours and ten minutes after she stepped on the stage, she exited.

During the show, Lauryn said she wanted to come back. Assuming this wasn’t some Rock Star Bullsh*t is it worth going to see her?  I can’t speak for you, but for me it’d be totally worth it.

P.S.: You can find Elena Lau’s videos from the concert here:

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