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Lauryn Hill Triumphs at Second NY Tour Stop, With Little Delay

Brian Killian, Getty Images

Lauryn Hill — or Ms. Lauryn Hill, as she prefers — kicked off her 17-date North American tour on a sour note. The reclusive soulstress, who has been taking baby steps back into the spotlight, took the stage at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg last week over three hours late, prompting fans to pelt the stage with cups and bottles. Ms. Hill didn’t take too kindly to the ingratitude.

“I spent my entire 20s sacrificing my life to give you love. So when I hear people complain, I don’t know what to tell you,” she told the impatient audience. “I personally know I’m worth the wait.”

For the second stop on the tour at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom on Saturday, Jan. 1, the venue took precautions to prevent an ambush, making it clear that the show had a hard start at 11:30PM. With fans packed from wall to wall, things were looking up when four of the former Fugee’s children — Selah, Joshua, John and Marley — suddenly appeared on the balcony to watch their mom in action.

But even they had to kill some time. After DJ Rampage warmed up the audience with cuts from Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg, Ms. Hill’s girthy backup band — consisting of three guitarists, three keyboardists, three backup singers, a DJ, a drummer and a bassist — assumed their positions at 12:30, with the woman of the evening finally emerging to a grateful crowd, treating them to a spicy two-hour performance of strictly classic material.

Keeping the banter to a minimum, L. Boogie took the stage clad in a turquoise chiffon dress shirt, a leopard print vest and high-waisted black dress pants. She kicked it off with a swelling rendition of Bob Marley‘s ‘Forever Loving Jah,’ an extensive intro that she fleshed out her own way and set the tone for the rest of the evening.

The tunes were livelier and more ambitious, but often edged into tedium. Ms. Hill performed cuts from her sole studio album, 1998′s ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’ molding tracks like ‘When It Hurts So Bad’ and ‘Ex-Factor’ into frenetic, 10-minute anthems. Just when ‘Lost Ones,’ ‘To Zion’ and ‘Final Hour’ seemed to come to a close, Lauryn would revive them as completely reconfigured vestiges of what they once were. But she made it easy to watch. Lauryn is a gifted performer, and she managed to fiercely connect with both the material and the audience, while battling sound problems and fervently wiping sweat from her brow.

“When I was on the Rock the Bells tour with Nas, he told me, ‘You’ve got to let your inner rasp out,’” she said with a laugh. Her raspy undercurrent shone bright as she made challenging vocal trills seem natural while performing The Flamingos’ ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ and ‘Killing Me Softly.’ The vocal crackling disappeared when she paused the show to proudly introduce her children, singing a heartwarming ‘Happy Birthday’ to her daughter Marley.

Lauryn strolled down memory lane by performing a few hits by The Fugees, taking over for Pras and Wyclef Jean by rapping their verses, but put an experimental spin on ‘Ready or Not,’ ‘Fu-Gee-La’ and ‘How Many Mics.’

She ducked from the stage after the exhaustive set, returning to perform the gentle ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’ after the DJ cut in Bob Marley’s vocals from the first verse. Lauryn ended the evening to a packed house with ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ and no one had noticed that the show had stretched well past 2AM.


Watch Lauryn Hill Perform ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’

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