Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ms. Lauryn Hill @ Zénith, Paris - September 13, 2014

It's been close to two decades since Lauryn Hill's only solo studio album The Miseducation of Lauryn was released. In that time lapse she has managed to alienate her former bandmates The Fugees, most of her fan base, the record industry and the US government.

She is now embarking on an apology tour destined to show she can still be a reliable and viable force in the music business, and one thing's for sure: she's got her work cut out for her.

Her Paris date falls on the same day as a festival headlining set by Scorpions (no audience overlap there) and more importantly Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the Stade de France, which may explain the sparsity of the crowd.

After the DJ opening the show was done with his set, it would be another hour before Ms. Lauryn Hill, as she now insists on being called, deigned to grace us with her presence. The band had already been playing for ten minutes, and things were starting to groove. Unfortunately the second she opened her mouth, it was a disaster.

Her voice was hoarse, often off-key, and fancying herself a James Brown-style bandleader she kept signalling the band to change the tempos or segue into other numbers, rendering her songs unrecognisable.

Thankfully, this didn't last long and she returned with an acoustic guitar for a short solo set that should have been the format for the entire evening. Her voice miraculously reappeared, and she finally started to convey some emotion. Unfortunately, that was short-lived and the band came back later to butcher some Fugees hits and a few Bob Marley classics.

By the time she capped off the show with a decent version of Doo-Wop (That Thing), one couldn't help but feel sorry for this immensely talented artist whose personal failings stood in the way of her delivering on the promises of her early career.

The music business is full of stories of redemption. Iggy Pop, for example, managed to re-build himself and his career after hitting rock bottom and squandering every inch of good will. It can be done. But not as long as she keeps pulling half-assed performances like this one.

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