To fully understand Ms. Lauryn Hill’s legacy, it’s important to take a moment to think about her overall impact in music. As a solo artist, Hill has only released one studio album, the magnum opus The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and one live album, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0. In spite of having a small body of work, she’s still in the same conversation as some of the greats who have ever graced the stage.
So there is a reason why Hill can be forgiven for the periods where she is absent from the music scene. Her fans forgive her even when she appears on stage hours after her scheduled performance. She is forgiven because of the thought that her mere presence will be worth the wait.
Hill served as the headlining act at the 2015 ONE Musicfest in Atlanta, Georgia. This time, Hill didn’t force her fans to wait hours for the show to begin. She entered the stage shortly after 9:30 p.m. dressed in black and white and followed by a 12-man band. Creating a scenery of an intimate setting, Hill sat in a chair surrounded by small lit candles as she held her guitar. She wanted to tell her story first, and the 20,000 plus festival goers were more than willing to listen.
While singing “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind,” Hill expressed the emotions of being trapped by the memories of love that no longer exists. By the end of the song, Hill was as inspirational as a choir on Sunday morning by singing, “What a joy it is to be alive, to get another chance, everyday’s another chance, to get it right this time, everyday’s another chance.”
In a sense, Hill was somewhat of a choir director by often pointing at her band to speed up or slow down tempo at different moments.
Hill followed with “The Mystery of Iniquity,” a song Kanye West famously sampled for his hit, “All Falls Down.” Midway through her performance, Hill parted ways with the chair and guitar as she delved into songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Hill performed a reggae-inspired version of “Ex-Factor” before raising the crowd’s energy with “Lost Ones.” She even took it back to her days with the Fugees by performing the group’’s first breakout hit, “Fu-Gee-La,” and “Ready or Not.”
On “Killing Me Softly,” Hill proved that she still has superior vocal range by nailing the song’s crescendo without a hitch.
She also paid homage to musical legends by covering Bob Marley’s “Jammin’,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster.” While covering Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” Hill poured her soul into the song which seemed to serve as a catharsis for every struggle she has experienced in the past decade.
Hill closed her set with the hit “Doo-Wop (That Thing).”
By the time Hill exited the stage, most of the festival goers were left in awe from what they had just witnessed. She may never record another new song, she may continue her tardiness at future shows, or, she may disappear from the music scene, again. But for those who were lucky enough to see her live, all of that will never matter. For an hour and a half, Hill displayed rare greatness. And that’s more than enough to keep her true fans satisfied for a lifetime.
Photos: A.R. Shaw