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Issue 1084

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Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14

Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com
Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com Lauryn Hill: Brixton Academy, London 20/9/14 @bluesandsoul.com

By the time Lauryn Hill arrived on the stage, she already had a tough job on her handsâ¦an hour later than scheduled, it was 10pm before the audience finally got a glimpse of the legendary singer and rapper. Boos had resounded around Brixton Academy as the crowd â many of whom had packed into the venue more than two hours earlier â grew restless - it was clear from the off that in typical 'Lauryn Hill style', this show was going to delve into the unexpected.

Many tracks from her incredible âThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hillâ album â which remains one of my favourite records of all time â were given a thorough reworking. Accompanied by a live band, she seemed to spend much of the first half of the show battling to be heard against the background. It was a fact she seemed to acknowledge, as several times during the performance she turned around to the musicians onstage around her to dish out instructions, seemingly telling them to pipe down and stop drowning her out.

âEverything Is Everythingâ and âEx Factorâ took on a far heavier edge than it seemed many in the audience were expecting. But there was no doubting that Hillâs vocals have not diminished in the 16 years since âMiseducationâ was released. Yes, it really has been that long. âTo Zionâ was delivered with style, and showed that if the band could take a back seat and let Hillâs vocals take centre stage, she could put on a good show.

Things took a turn for the better when she reappeared with a stool and an acoustic guitar to perform âMr Intentionalâ and a cover of Bob Marleyâs âTurn Your Lights Down Lowâ. With just her voice and the soft acoustics, the singer reminded the crowd why they fell in love with her in the first place. Sounding commanding and showing a depth of emotion the early set had not allowed her to demonstrate, Hill was in her element.

She drew a big reaction from the crowd with performances of Fugees classics âFu Gee Laâ, âReady or Notâ and âKilling Me Softlyâ. The latter in particular was a highlight of the show, as Hill demonstrated her distinctive vocal range over the famous riff.

A Bob Marley medley - being the mother of five of the reggae legendâs grandchildren would no doubt have given her an added affinity to his music â included covers of âJammingâ and âIs This Loveâ.

A more unexpected cover came in the form of Nancy Sinatraâs âBang Bangâ. Given a 'Lauryn Hill', it became a powerful, emotive track that seemed to claw back some of the disquiet felt earlier by the crowd. This gave way to the final track, a lively, energetic version of Hillâs biggest hit âDoo Wop (That Thing)â. It was a triumphant end to a mixed set, and showed her rapping is still as powerful as her vocals.

Overall it was a varied set, with some highlights showing that Lauryn Hill is still relevant, and still a top performer. But the heavy rewordings did not sit well with everyone in the crowd, and the lateness was difficult to stomach after many arrived early to grab a good position. That said, it was encouraging that having come back from the wilderness, a much-anticipated follow-up to âMiseducationâ could soon be on the cards.

PHOTOS: DAVE BURKE
Words Dave Burke

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