Lauryn Hill Rewrites History

Lauryn Hill Photo: FilmMagic

When she finally took the stage last night in Brooklyn, Lauryn Hill — two and a half hours late and resplendent in a red ’fro, ten tons of costume jewelry, and baggy plaid clown pants — was twitchy and unfocused, and mostly reduced to shouting hoarsely over her enormous band (backup singers, horns, at least three drummers, etc.). “Let’s see how many people remember me,” she said to her audience before tearing into a ska-ified "Lost Ones." “I know I haven’t been around for awhile.”

They did remember, which seemed to be the problem; many were frustrated that tracks from her now-classic The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill had been rearranged into huge, unrecognizable glam/ska/Afrobeat exercises, even if the Phil Spector scale gave them a cool, apocalyptic edge. But when she calmed down enough to sing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” with hints of the old, smoky richness, the crowd was with her, as it was during the largely satisfying encore, which included a sing-alongable “Killing Me Softly." During her cover of the Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" she barked over her backup singers: "It's a really valid question." It certainly was. —Tim Murphy