One of the brightest burning stars of the 90’s, Ms. Lauryn Hill was a top tier act for this years’ Festival International de Jazz De Montréal.
Erratic behavior, diva-like antics and harsh criticism towards her level of professionalism and sense of schedule has often been a focal point of critics. This is not something you’re going to read much about here. The point of the matter is when she’s on, she is on. When she’s not, she’s still on. For her 2 headline gigs in Montréal this week, Hill was barely an hour late to the stage, scheduled for 9PM but starting right at 10PM. A mere hour to align her psyche and smoke that last bit of weed is not a huge problem, and in fact on the early side for Hill.
The first chunk of songs played as though we were watching a band’s soundcheck. This is not to say Hill and backing musicians/vocalists were anything less than incredible. Sitting pretty armed with an acoustic guitar, Hill ran through some classic cuts including Mystery of Iniquity and Ex Factor.
During this intro section, Ms. Lauryn Hill would essentially conduct the 9-piece band behind her the way you’d see an orchestra conductor direct a full ensemble. It was this attention to each isolated instrument, and the constant demands to the sound technician to increase specified instrument levels that posed Hill as more than just a Diva, but a musician fighting to produce the sound to which her merit is attributed to.
These are the types of “diva antics” I can stand behind. The sound inside the concert hall continued to grow bigger and bigger. It was obvious this was a person who not only knew what she was doing but remained entirely in control.
Once this sound check of sorts passed, Hill got up from her perch to abandon the adorned acoustic guitar and amp up the energy. A re-worked, dancehall version of Everything is Everything brought everyone back up to their feet. Keeping steady through Lost Ones. Many of the classic tracks had been reworked with a new arrangement, making them fresh to the ears but remaining classics. Showcasing the versatility behind her art.
Surreal for me, as for many I am sure, was when Hill delved into her career beginnings with the influential 90’s hits from Fugees. How Many Mics, Fu-Gee-La, Ready or Not and Killing Me Softly. A high point for the night as the sold-out crowd reminisced back onto the mid-90’s jams. The powerful energy brought on during this section reminded me of why she was then, and forever will be one of the driving forces in music history. Period.
Hill has a powerful vocal capability, this is a fact we all know. What some may have forgotten is just how strong her rap flow is. Insanely strong. The rhymes flowed without a stumble and maintained a solid punch with every syllable.
Ms. Lauryn Hill showed off some of her inspiration and appreciation with many covers in the 2-hr set list. A string of well-known songs from Bob Marley & The Wailers gave full on reggae bliss. Cy Grant’s Feelin’ Good, executed with complete vocal control. Culminating the evening and leading into Doo Wop(That Thing), arguably Hill’s strongest hit, certainly so in reference to her solo record.
All things considered, Ms. Lauryn Hill is a musical force to be reckoned with. As for any critic embellishing her rudeness to her fans, that couldn’t be further from the truth in Montréal’s case. Hill showed much love to the city. Often crooning “I love you Montréal!” and bringing out 2 of her kids to say hello. Hill took a solid chunk of time to shake as many hands a possible while Doo-Wop played out before Hill disappeared behind stage with utmost class.
A major check on my bucket list…. and one that you should put on your own. Kudos, Ms. Lauryn Hill.