This pains me to my hip hop loving, neo soul crooning core to write, and I feel a warm seeping inner guilt like I am betraying a ferociously talented queen who’s voice guided me through so much high school angst. It hurts.
Five Grammys and near on 20 million sales has ensured The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is undeniably an era-defining album that has stood the test of time not only due to her powerhouse, silky-yet-gritty vocals, but because it stood for something real. It was an anthology of raw anthems pushing the fight for feminism, self respect, love and the reality of racial prejudice.
But… her recent Perth performance killed me softly, really really fast. It shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise since there has been a non stop tirade of complaints regarding her live shows since 2011. Not just for her constant lateness, so late at times it’s become somewhat insulting, commonly leaving fans waiting several hours. But more so for the reworked renditions of her classics rendering them almost unrecognisable, impossible to sing along to, and hard to digest.
In true form she hit the stage late, just before 10pm, to a crowd that seemed already fidgety and agitated. She then started the show with Lost Ones and Everything is Everything. Not only were the songs significantly different to the originals but it was really difficult to properly discern her vocals over the band.
Sound issues were very evident. It felt like she was an hour late and sped up every song as fast as possible so she could get the concert done in half the time. Every song was significantly faster with a more jazzy feel. It gave the feeling of being rushed. They weren’t terrible, if I didn’t know the songs or who she was they would be quite good but having come to fulfill a desire for nostalgia they felt disrespectfully mutilated. It kind of felt like a stream of disappointing triple j Like a Version covers.
To Zion used to give me goosebumps; many a night I fell asleep with my CD on repeat to this song. It didn’t even sound slightly similar to the original, none of the same melodies, beautiful soaring notes, and where was the soul? That was the rendition that broke my night. At this point Hill sounded breathless and like she struggled getting through each verse, which is understandable considering she did every song before at double speed. Her voice sounds much raspier these days which perhaps explains why she avoids notes and raps more. Whether this is due to age or exhaustion is unclear.
Forgive Them Father was the only song that felt like it maintained any heart. Helped in part by the imagery being played in background highlighting the impact of police brutality.
The crowd appeared to be appeased when the two Fugees hits, Killing Me Softly and Ready Or Not, came on. The haunting, unmistakable introduction to Ready Or Not induced cheers emanating through the entire stadium. Though that joy was short lived with only the intro being familiar.
Look I’m not mad, just disappointed. She looked like an ethereal goddess and can still rap and sing with the best of them. Her vocal talent is undeniable.
If it was a sideline at a festival it would have been substandard but still a real pleasure to experience; as a headline act it left me wanting to go home and play the album three times in a row to re-educate my miseducation and remind myself how much I do still love her.