There’s a special hype you get seeing a show under the sails of the Sydney Opera House…and when you’ve battled through tourists and families that are moving like slow, stupid sheep through Circular Quay to get to that shiny beacon glittering in VIVID Sydney animations, it becomes an angst-fuelled buzz – really pretty appropriate for when you’re seeing a firecracker like Lauryn Hill.
So buzzing under the sails and the kind of anticipation of finally seeing a childhood hero, (I bought The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as one of my first albums), I was instantly hooked when Hill and her nine-piece band opened with a totally jazzed, funked up arrangement of ‘Killing Me Softly.’ The energy was running high for the next half hour as Hill conducted her band, and the audience through funkified arrangements of hits from The Miseducation of…such as ‘Everything is Everything,’ ‘Final Hour’ and ‘Lost Ones.’
I was hanging on for a straight delivery of soulful tracks like ‘To Zion’ and ‘The Ex-factor,’ songs that show off Hill’s vocal gifts in contrast to her rapping; that can still only be described as a total weapon. Whilst these two tracks weren’t quite the soulful delivery I was hoping for, the powerful renditions on the night were like celebrations and left me high on the energy coming off the stage.
As though Hill could feel the desire in the room for some of her old school originals, it didn’t take long for the DJ, bassplayer, keyboards, and drummers to take a break from stage duties, while Hill took up acoustic guitar and revisited her MTV Unplugged hits like ‘Mr. Intentional’ and ‘Oh Jerusalem.’ Saying an audience is spellbound is cliché I know, but what else to call the people I saw with jaws on the ground and giving the stage their unblinking attention?
A Lauryn Hill concert would of course not be complete without visiting her time in the Fugees, and launching into tracks like ‘Zealots’ and ‘FU-GEE-LA’ had everyone up on their feet bumping on grinding. For the few people left in their seats, a blast of lights and the iconic intro to ‘Ready or Not’ had the entire audience jumping, screaming, cheering, clapping, grinding…you get the picture.
At this point I was grinning ear-to-ear, on a drug-like buzz from the 90 minutes Hill, and her band had assaulted our ears and eyes – anything else to me was just gravy. So another arrangement of ‘Killing Me Softly,’ a straighter delivery with more emphasis on Hill’s vocals, and then finally the track all the ladies in the crowd had been waiting for, ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ of course, officially and completely blew me away. Hill’s kids even cameo’d during ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ as she delivered the closing bars and left the stage with them.
So with my mind blown and reflecting on the night, with the raw energy with which every single song was delivered, the inventive rearrangements, the passion that Hill conducted her band with, the gorgeous, strong vocals throughout and down right assaultive rapping she delivered, I can say this is pretty much the best concert I’ve ever been to.