Updated (again!): Finally! A trustworthy account of the Lauryn Hill show from The Liberator's own editorial staff member Melvin Barrolle. I get excited when I'm reminded of the type of people we got on staff. Especially after reading all the half-ass accounts out there, including one written by a sister who admittedly left the damn show! Lol! Our generation is a trip, man. Anyway, here's the real deal. Mel, good lookin:
I attended the performance and left thoroughly fulfilled. Those that made their exit early appeared to have come equipped with preconceived ideas about her earlier "antics" and when she dove into "Lost Ones" at breakneck speed, they took this as immediate confirmation of these wild rumors. For musical fans that remained, we were treated to a delicious show in which she showcased her range (throwing some Brazilian mamba and African drumming into the mix), endurance (just coming off tour from Europe and rocked the mic for close to three hours despite a strained voice) and a wit that remains peerless in the genre (I'm still waiting for legal scholars to introduce "Mystery Of Iniquity" into theoretical discussions of the judicial system). She revealed herself through her selections, deliberately toying with the crowd and engaging us in intimate dialogue through the sequencing of the songs. The fast-paced beats of her classics appeared to be her subtle way of asking the crowd to allow her to grow although she understands the continued resonance of her earlier hits. This is why the timing of "Ex-Factor" was impeccable. My ace boon coon reads the song as a dialogue between those who labor for freedom on behalf of our people and even in moments of utter frustration realize that like Nino Brown in New Jack City: cmb-we all we got! In this particular context, the song was Lauryn exhorting the crowd to relax the resistance to her growth, and even though she's maturing and experimenting on more effective ways to construct liberation songs, she still understands the "rules" of black space (re: how can i move the crowd) and thus delivered the classics to satisfy the implicit and not-so-implicit (the thick lines streaming out of the park) demands for the "old" Lauryn. Even as she gratified the nostalgic-crazed fans, she reminded us that songs like Zion were made a full decade ago, and her son, Zion, is definitely no longer the "baby" that inspired the song in the first place. This is real because we cannot afford to be nostalgic to the point where we subordinate the future to the past or as Dr. John Henrik Clarke would boom, "we do not need to rebuild the (Kemetic) pyramids. How about we concentrate that age-tested brilliance into constructing a continental railroad system?! She followed this performance with "Zimbabwe," another well-timed piece for those keeping abreast of what's taking place on that side of the Atlantic. Beyond the fact that it is virtually taboo to invoke the country in the mainstream without denigrating Mugabe, Lauryn probed deeper by reminding us of the original context of the struggle: to overthrow white colonial rule; a rule that extended deeply into the economic sphere. I nodded my head vigorously to some of Bob's well-crafted lyrics (see Anthony Bogues analysis of the song in his classic "Black Heretics, Black Prophets.") in it, he warns us to make sure that we are not fooled by mercenaries (a prophecy that has bared out throughout the continent -- and in the diaspora -- by folk who have attempted to subvert black nationalism for their own selfish and neo-colonial agendas). Funny enough, the west loved Mugabe back (to see the full extent of this adulation, simply peruse through the domestic papers and magazines of that early 80s period) when he took office and pushed out the communist leaning Joshua Nkomo who championed the re-distribution of land a little more aggressively. By delivering this song, she placed herself at the vortex of the black world liberation struggle as many have likened the attack on Zimbabwe to the attack that was launched against Kwame Nkrumah in the sixties. (see one of the more recent issues of New African Magazine) Mugabe has been one of the more vocal advocates of Pan-African unity and has repeatedly urged African countries to "look east" towards building relationships with China and the wider Asian region and leaving the rotting West to its own muck. The deluge of slandering by the Western press that has accompanied these calls is an attempt in many ways to paint him as completely irrational so that the underlying sentiments being expressed are never heard and grappled with. Ironically, Lauryn can empathize. Be that as it may, while probing the media dubbed crisis on Zimbabwe was certainly a necessary and worthy endeavor, the more significant point for me in the selection of the song was reminding the audience of the role of the artist to liberation. When we think of the context of Marley in penning this song, we then get closer to understanding Lauryn. This, I speculate, is at the heart of her struggle. The fact that many people can jam to Zimbabwe nowadays and have absolutely no understanding of the context, then and now, shows the tightrope artists have to walk when navigating a capitalist-driven music industry. Bob Marley, in many households, has been relegated to CDs marked "classics" or "greatest hits," and even those staunchly against everything he stands for can be seen crooning his songs loudly... in public no less. Lauryn appears to be resisting becoming quaint and comfortable. I couldn't help but think about the classic interview with Nina Simone when she blurts out "if I had my way, I'd be a killer." Lauryn demonstrated her commitment to servicing the struggle continuously throughout the concert, hitting the crowd with two-liners (with clear hypnotic intent) like: "Parents/Brooklyn, don't raise compromised beings," "When it hurts so bad, why does it feel so good," "We free the people with music, sweet music," And a host of others i cannot retrieve from memory right now. All of which can be read more extensively as commentaries on our present state of affairs. The night was capped off beautifully with an encore, starting with "Strumming My Pain" which had everyone who had started for the exits making a mad dash back to the park, and ending with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" I went home satisfied and reinvigorated. Ms. Hill, sorry to state the obvious, but that is indeed a rhetorical question :) Also: Newsday gives a good review of the show as well-- A few varying accounts of the Lauryn Hill concert last night in Brooklyn: (She Real Cool) ...Disorienting as the show was until the encore--I won't say it was bad since her inventive spins on her classics were not altogether ill conceived--the audience was still primarily with her. People drifted out quietly but everyone was pretty much rapt and always politely clapped. Studded through the audience also were a number of Stans who danced fervidly through every number including some of the shittier Bob Marley covers. At first I thought it ironic that Hill included "Final Hour" in her set since she was anything but sating the people that feel "Lauryn Hill from Newark to Israel," more like the people that like hopped up Bob Marley covers. Like her ex lover and bandmate (or vice versa) Wyclef Jean, Hill's obsessed with Bob Marley and focused too much of her set on him. But then after the encore of all encores that saw Hill giving identifiable renditions of her classics, offering smooth and clever transitions and playfully engaging the crowd, I realized that the Hill that we all know and deify (or maybe that's just me) still lurks underneath those layers of leather and wool, it's just that Hill ain't all that interested in bringing her out, which is while frustrating not necessarily indicative of crazy. I mean I was alarmed by what I saw by the show's midpoint and even mentioned to my sister that I felt like cutting my losses and peacing out but by evening's end I was back on the koolaid. I'm grateful that she offered a glimpse into the tight professionalism of her touring act circa '99 (since I was there Fox Theatre, ATL what!) for the encore even if her voice couldn't keep up. You could barely hear Hill over the singing of the audience anyway. And amped doesn't even come close to describing our euphoria during the encore. You just had to be there: to hear everyone screaming every single line of those Hill classics, cellphones and a few lighters up, cheese grins across faces... (source) (Rolling Stone) ...When Hill did make her entrance in front of an eleven-piece band and three backup singers, her face was heavily made up, but lovely. Her afro was the color of rust, and heavy jewelry dangled everywhere. She was overdressed for the heat in a long-sleeved ruffled blouse, oversized leather fringed vest, wide-legged plaid pants and platform shoes, almost as if she was mocking someone — maybe even herself. And the music sounded like Hill looked: They were her hit songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but played over unrecognizable reggae rhythms and Afro-beat ska arrangements. She sang the favorites the crowd came to hear, but fans couldn’t sing along because they didn’t know these melodies, and because, well, Hill wasn’t even singing. She was scatting and chanting and shuffling about. She performed an energetic rendition of “Lost Ones” fused with Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” and then “Final Hour” melded with Peter Tosh’s “Downpressor Man,” and “Zion” blended with Marley’s “Iron, Lion, Zion.” Sometimes it sounded beautiful, sometimes it sounded like babble. Each song — upbeat, percussive basslines beneath Hill’s rough, repetitive chanting — was at least ten minutes long. The crowd sat in a collective stare, not quite sure what to make of it... (source) -- Original Post: Lauryn gives me hope. I've seen several people at the point in her life that she appears to be at -- a moment in time post-revelation -- that have gone mad or ended up dead (suicide or otherwise). And the fact that she is still ALIVE is uplifting. She is struggling. Let her struggle. She is open, vulnerable and honest and is still alive. There may be plenty of things we can critique her on, but she may know those things as well, and may even know what she would either do different or advise someone else to do different. But she is at where she is at and she is not in an insane asylum and is not dead. In life is the potential for resurrection. Give thanks for that. Originally Posted 8/7/2007We're a human development centered cooperative, producing in part through the generous and faithful contributions of our North Star members. 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