Monday, January 17, 2011

Concert Review | Ms. Lauryn Hill at The Pageant in Saint Louis

Photo credit: Santiago Felipe/Village Voice

"And every chorus was written for us to recite/ Beautiful melodies of devotion every night..."

Those lines, lyrics taken from the Ms. Lauryn Hill's rap on "Turn Your Lights Down Low," (a "duet" with the late Bob Marley) carry new meaning today, after seeing her performance last night at The Pageant.

Yesterday, Jason wrote about waiting for artists to take the stage in his review of Friday's Grace Potter and The Nocturnals show. His words also carry new meaning after last night's Ms. Lauryn Hill performance.

I bought my tickets for Hill's show back in December, the second they went on sale. I thought it would sell out in mere minutes. Turns out, I hadn't been reading the reviews online. Reported diva antics: late starts, no-shows, crowd heckling. You know, the sort of trifecta that persuades avid fans to stay home versus risk disappointment from their favorite volatile artist, otherwise frozen in perfection in memories. However, that dilemma did not remotely enter my mind; with a few clicks, I procured two balcony seats (a splurge, even!) for what I considered might be one of my only chances to see Ms. Lauryn Hill live.

The doors for The Pageant opened at 9:00 PM. I left my house at 9:45, fully aware that I'd still be waiting a long while for Hill to take the stage after I arrived at the venue. Turns out, high-heeled boots and an empty seat with my name on it couldn't lure me away from the spontaneous dance party my friends and I started in an empty balcony corner. Sorry, Petty, the waiting was not the hardest part. Hill's DJ played an endless stream of hot jamz to liven up the crowd: Snoop, Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige, Naughty By Nature. I have never experienced a vibe at The Pageant quite like the one last night; looking back, it seems like a carefully concocted powder keg.

Hill took the stage at 11:52 PM. The Pageant was still packed to the gills, the crowd was ready to erupt, chanting, "Lau-ryn! Lau-ryn! Lau-ryn!" Even though the show was well-publicized around town (both positively and negatively), I couldn't help but feel as though I was a member of a secret society, or I just became my date's "plus one" to an invite-only party. I can't say for certain why Hill prefers to take the stage so late, but maybe, just maybe, it's to weed out the tepid believers and the Hatorade drinkers. After all, as she recently told a New York audience, she's "worth the wait." And if you held your own last night through the figurative staring contest with Ms. Lauryn Hill, you came out a winner. She was worth every penny of my ticket's cost, every minute of my time.

The lady came out on stage like a barrel from a gun. She topped off a rather masculine pants-and-matching-vest get-up with a feminine fur stole, just another symbol of her complex demeanor. She often acknowledged her adoring crowd by working "Saint Louis" into her lyrics as she shimmed and slid - James Brown style - across the stage. Her frenzied dancing often evolved into bodily spasms, conquering old songs done in new ways, with her twelve person army of musicians and back-up singers behind her. And, no matter how fired up Ms. Lauryn Hill got, she for damn sure wasn't going to drop that fur stole.

Hill coursed through favorites off of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and from The Fugees' catalog. While she avoided her (fabulous) reworking of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" off Miseducation, she did provide her version of The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You." The balcony cleared out as the show traveled into Monday, but those who left early missed the 1-2-3-4-5 packed punch of "Fu-Gee-La," "Ready or Not," "Killing Me Softly," and the two encore numbers, "Turn Your Lights Down Low" and "Doo Wop (That Thing)." Together, we all stood in devotion and recited those beautiful melodies and choruses. And when I say "recited," I really mean shouted.

I realize that I am not saying anything unique when I tell you that Miseducation is a seminal album in my life. I wore that CD out during my first year of college. Away from home, surrounded by burgeoning friendships but still very much alone, that album became the soundtrack of my independence, dare I say, paralleling Hill's escape from the turmoil within The Fugees, her solo debut, motherhood... No, I take it back. I don't dare say that.

What I do know is this: last night, I placed a bet and won. For those who stayed away to avoid potential disappointment missed the opportunity to watch Hill burst - gristle and funk and humanity flying everywhere - before their very eyes. Miseducation, no matter how well that album reveals Hill's giftedness, cannot convey the brilliance of her raw and burning presence, exposed from her curtain of controversy and rescued from fans who have mentally frozen her in perfection.

If you are debating, if you're just not sure if you want the ticket, stop. Go see her. She is absolutely worth the wait.

Setlist [courtesy of A to Z]:
"Forever Loving Jah" (Bob Marley cover)
"Lost Ones"
"When It Hurts So Bad"
"Final Hour"
"How Many Mics" (Fugees)
"I Only Have Eyes For You" (The Flamingos cover)
"Fu-Gee-La" (Fugees)
"Ready or Not" (Fugees)
"Killing Me Softly"

"Turn Your Lights Down Low"
"Doo Wop (That Thing)"


  1. I suppose you got lucky. I took the same chance you did. I bought my tickets to see her here in Atlanta. I waited three hours or so for her to finally take the stage. The set list was similar. But, the performance was horrendous. You could not even recognize the songs. She broke my heart. No respect for her fans and even less respect for showmanship.

    1/14/2011 - a night I will never forget. The night that Ms. Hill ceased to be one of my heroes.

  2. @KC6794 I don't know what show you were at but the ATL show I went to was AMAZING!

  3. Excellent show in StL. I was so amazed by her performance and I actually really enjoyed the remaking of the songs I love. They were still recognizable enough to be able to sing along, but showed her musical talents in being able to make the old new again.

    I thought it was amazing and the Pageant vibe was the best I've seen ever!

  4. I'm glad that someone is finally making good comments of Lauryn Hill. I myself read through the reviews of the other shows but I didn't care I wanted to see Lauryn Hill with a live band. You don't get concerts like that no more especially with the artist that are out now. I enjoyed her entire set. I was not disappointed at all. I also read in the paper that there was no set time in her contract, so the promoters are putting times and it's not being agreed upon by Lauryn. I live in Kansas City. I drove down for the concert and had to be at work bright and early for work on Monday morning. I have no regrets at all about her concert. Yea I wish she could have sung the songs in the orginal format, but the new mixes were on point and it showed just what she's on now an dthat we won't be disappointed when she comes out when a new project. I believe that she started off like that to weed out those that were just there for skeptism and those that stayed enjoyed the entire show and got the ultimate treat at the end. We got to see Lauryn for who we fell in love with at first but first we got to see her growth and her artistic geniusness and we fell in love with that Lauryn as well. GREAT JOB LAURYN. If you have the opportunity to attend the concert I say go. You know she's going to be late so just expect it and then enjoy yourself.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed Lauryn's performance at the Pageant on Sunday night. My girlfriend and I made the trek from Cincinnati to attend the show and it was well worth the time and money that we spent to see her. I believe that she intentionally reworked a lot of the songs as to say, here are the inner workings of some of the new music that you may hear from me, and to me that was a breath of fresh air. And of course when she did her classic records, the crowd went banana's!!! Sunday nite was not only a concert, but a rebirthing of sorts of one of the greatest artists of our time. WE LOVE YOU LAURYN, and keep doing you baby!!! That's the only way to do it. ONE

  6. Im going Jan 29th to see her in Atlantic City , been waiting like everyone else for 10 years to see her and now my life will be complete. I expect her lateness but who cares she is worth it, those songs struck a cord in my heart from the minute i heard them a descade ago and if you cant wait for her then your not a true fan. Make plans to stay overnite in a hotel if your not from the area, Im making it a weekend getaway with my girls

  7. Great review, Katie!

  8. Just saw her last night in NJ @ the Wellmont. She was so late....went on around 12:20 and was very bad. Had a DJ spinning music to keep the crowd awake before she made her grand entrance. Her band of 12 were so loud, you could not even hear what they were trying to play. Thank the lord above the tickets were free or I would have been very mad. Saw alot of people walking out angry before the show was even over! Who does she think she is AXEL ROSE??

  9. 2/04: Montclair, NJ (The Wellmont Theatre)
    AWFUL - disappointing: I brought 4 tickets @ $65each
    This was the worst concert, I have ever seen! The doors open @ 7pm for 8pm concert - The crappy DJ started at 9pm and ended at 11:15pm WHAT NO OPENING ACT. He was so young that he did not know how to blend music. 11:30 another louder DJ playing rap music with F words every 5 sec, N words every 2 sec - he was loud and show no respect with his foul language to the fans. We waited until 12:30 and saw her jumping around yelling to the the stage hand to tune her mike and adjust the feedback for 2 songs. She and her band needed a sound check. The sound was so VERY LOUD that no one would understand what she was saying. The sound was so HORRENDOUS, extremely loud I was in so much pain - was this a ROCK concert. I was in agony for 3 of other songs. We left before my ears started to bleed. It was so very very bad. We and other walk out on her as we all talk and complained about how upset we were, that she disrespected US. Having wasted our time, aggravated by the loud music and no apologizing for showing up at 12:30pm - with NO OPENING ACT. This is not acceptable!!! and she should not get away with this!. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY OR TIME - I thought this would be better! in her home town, after the many complaints but it was even worst. Lauryn Hill is unappreciative of her fans.

  10. I Paid over $300 for tickets for me and my baby to see her in Atlanta. We arrived around 8pm. She took to the stage around 12:30am. Didn't sing any recognizable songs. Didn't show any respect for her fans time, money and devotion. Now she's offering a few "Make Good" show in Atlanta on March 30th for the people who came to her first show.... and she has the audacity to "Blame the Media" for her bad reviews... the Media doesn't make you show up 4 hours late, the Media doesn't make sing unrecognizable songs, or sing so low, the band drowns you out! She was STANK in ATL... I won't even go to her free make up show now... in fact, I WILL NEVER SPEND A DIME ON ANY THING related to Lauryn Hill EVER Again! STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR HER... SHE'S INCONSIDERATE AND UNPROFESSIONAL!!!

  11. I saw Lauren Hill last night in Denver - my heart is broken! I wish I could say the wait was worth it but it wasn't! Too many people involved, way too loud, and Lauren acted frantic at times trying to adjust lights and mirophones. Her voice sounded great but too bad I had to hear everything else. I admit leaving early and disappointed!

  12. She stunk it up in San Diego last night. All the negative comments above ring true.

  13. San Diego show was a mess. It wasn't sold out even though it was at a smaller venue. People started leaving after the first few songs because she did NOT connect with the audience. Her mic was too low and the band was too loud. She was jerking around spastically like she was on speed or totally manic, completely micro-managing her band by spastic hand gestures. I stuck it out in hopes that my favorite female artist would truly make a COMEBACK as her tour eluded.
    I will mention that she did calm down her manic behavior and get into the music as the night went on and she showed a lot of excitement in being on stage. She gave SD a lot of shout outs and her band was great. HOWEVER, she never slowed down her pace so on her slower songs which deserved less band and more Lauryn with her spectacular voice, she gave too much vibrato and went too fast. Her opener was a dj and she only played a little over an hour after coming on late. Was it worth $72? I hate to say it but I don't think so! $40-50, maybe just to experience the new Lauryn who does still have an amazing voice if she just showcased it more!

  14. I paid $97.25 for Lauryn Hill's concert at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I've been a fan of hers for a long long long time. I was not disappointed at all by her performance. Sure, she didn't hit the stage until 12am and sang her heart out until 1:45am. I didn't mind the wait one bit. Everyone knows artists show up fashionably's not new news people.

    The songs she sang were different versions from what we hear on the radio and on her albums. But I must say, I really enjoyed these new versions.

    Totally worth the money I spent and totally worth my time.

  15. I thought the Edmonton show was abysmal. I kept staying for one more song thinking maybe they would get the sound right, or she'd do an acoustic number so I could hear her voice.

    Like so many of the reports above, she didn't show up until well after midnight (door was 8pm), the band was incredibly loud, her vocals were drowned out, and she frequently missed the mic as she was too busy telling various band members to play louder and faster. She looked manic.

    I will definitely be asking for my money back and am considering a class action lawsuit, as the ticket I bought said Lauryn Hill, May 28th, and she didn't show up until May 29th.

  16. Lauryn Hill Concert on May 28, 2011--sucked completely! 80$ rip off. Lauryn hill was horribly excuses , no apologies. doors opened at 8pm; she waddled in at 12:30 am. can you spell "self-absorbed...?'.

    sound sucked...couldnt hear her lyrics at all. just a 'mish-mash' of noises coming from her band. bass? drums? guitar? which sounds was which; i couldnt tell.

    i stayed an hour..went home mad at feeling ripped off and disappointed from a boring night at the edmonton events centre (EEC). by the way, the EEC layout is crappy--crowded with few sight lines. drinks are super expensive--$12 for a double highball.

    wont be back to EEC for anything.

    wont ever go to see lauryn hill again. crappiest. concert. ever.

  17. I thought the Edmonton show was horrible. I could have lived with the long annoying wait for her to perform, if there was a performance.

    Unfortunately when she did finally come on stage (12:30) the sound was terrible, you couldn't understand anything that she was singing. They also spent the entire show doing sound checks trying to get it right, there is no way that you should be getting feedback right up until the final song!!!

    It was a huge disappointment, and I would never recommend anyone to go see this show. It was probably the worst concert I have ever been to.


    I don't even know where to start.....not worth $90 I wish I could get a refund. I've been a fan of Lauryn Hill ever since she was in the movie Sister Act 2(1992), The Fugees, and her solo. I love her voice BUT not worth the wait. When you pay $90 for a ticket to a concert titled "Mrs. Lauryn Hill" you expect to get what you paid for. With her...doors opened at 8pm and she didn't even come on stage until 11:15!!!! WHAT?!?!?!?! For an hour and a half a Dj played for the audience, saying she would be right on in a few that went on for an hour. If I wanted to listen to radio played music I would of stayed home and listened to my radio. There were people around me that were leaving because they were sick of waiting. (I would say about 15 people left)I know every song by heart <3 Very disappointed, I was on the floor, I had a hard time hearing what she was saying, caught here and there.

    Lauryn Hill I hope you read this!!!! I am NOT a fan of yours anymore, lucky for you your career is almost over. Maybe your concert would of been different if you were in your prime.


  19. My God , I went to see her in Edmonton , she was 3 hours late , I just don't know why the heck I stood there . Bad sound , bad over zealous and loud band , everything was HORRENDOUS and she looked crazy . I used to like her , well , not anymore . Please get lost and never set foot back up here !

  20. Went to see lauryn hill last night and she was 'killing us loudly' in detroit. Not one time, not two times, but all night. My boyfriend and I are advit concert goers, and this by far was the worst show we ever seen. The music was so loud and sped up that she looked like a crazy person on uppers. We left very disappointed and ripped off. Her behavior on stage was so irratic she couldve been the opening act for charlie sheen.

  21. I've seen her in concert 6 times. One show was awful. One was the best concert I've ever seen. Four were great. That's a pretty good track record. Also she's not a machine. You don't know what you get until showtime. And that includes the band (I was friendly with some band members. They are just as uncertain as what will turn up as the audience). Women's a true artist. If you don't like it go see Beyonce.