Lauryn Hill shines at Cleveland’s Hard Rock Rocksino

Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park

Perhaps one of the most pressing and pertinent questions in the music world for the last two decades, the query that has fans and foes alike enthralled and intrigued, has been this — when will Lauryn Hill release another album?

It’s been 18 years since Hill released her first solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which received enormous critical and commercial success and propelled her from stardom as the third member of the Fugees into an entirely different realm — that of superstardom. And it could not have been easy for Hill to cope with the pressures of such intense fame and success, not easy at all. We’ve watched Hill grow up from a young woman to a seasoned woman (with six children of her own), who has retreated from the public eye, had public meltdowns, garnered tremendous public sympathy and support, and ultimately still has the world cheering her on, not counting her out, craving that next chapter in the Lauryn Hill saga, that comeback.

Well with her latest endeavor, “Ms. Lauryn Hill & Guests: A Diaspora Calling!” concert series,” live concerts intended to showcase the richness and diversity of music across the African diaspora and promoting peace and love throughout the world in a time of tumult, Hill has created a new platform upon which to shine and share her musical genius. And make no mistake about it, Hill is gifted. But she is also a perfectionist. She wants things just so. And if she can’t have it her way, she’d rather not do it at all. This was evident on Sept. 18 as we watched Hill step out onto the stage of Cleveland’s Hard Rock Rocksino, Northfield Park, and attempt to perform. Hill started out strong with her opening number, a vamped up version of “Everything Is Everything” and the night stayed at this accelerated, charged and energized pace for the most part. Hill looked fresh and fine, she sounded incredible, and her stamina never waned throughout her nearly two-hour performance, proving she is not new to this, but true to this.

There were several moments in the show where Hill flexed her musical muscle by directing her band members, at times evoking admiration because it’s clear that her level of skill and mastery of her art has been elevated tremendously. At other times, however, it was a bit distracting, and served as an indicator that Hill is still chasing that perfection, trying to control and conquer instead of letting it go, and letting it be. A smile, a loving taunt directed at the audience, a spontaneous breakout freestyle dance with her background singers were all hints of something for the most part kept hidden by Hill — seemingly, a freer, fun side. We think that’s where, at least in part, the spark for new music will come from. As Hill winded down her show by performing covers of heart-provoking songs by Bob Marley, Nina Simone and Sade, it was clear that she  has already gifted us with some of the greatest parts of her. “We do it for the love. We do it for the most high …” Hill sang sweetly at the end of the night, leaving us all grateful that she is, once again, doing it. –samantha hunter

Photos courtesy of Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park

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