In the vibrant city of Los Angeles, an air of anticipation surrounds the legendary Lauryn Hill as she graces the stage at the Crypto.com Arena. Arriving at the venue, I am feeling giddy and restless as I imagine witnessing a woman who has impacted so many artists in generations to come. Tonight, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of her iconic album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” alongside Fugees bandmates Wyclef Jean and Pras. Ms. Lauryn Hill takes the stage notoriously later than scheduled.
Acknowledging the audience’s murmurs about her habitual lateness, Hill addresses the issue head-on, and reminds the crowd of our fortune that she even makes it to the stage each night. This declaration sets the show up, and my expectations for it, to a higher level. The orchestral and lush arrangements of the songs create an impact, despite being melodically different from the way the album sounds, there is still the satisfaction of seeing Lauryn Hill perform these iconic songs. Lauryn Hill commands the stage and the band, she even bends the crowd to her will, as we chant when she instructs us to, and put our hands in the air when she urges us to. The songs blend into one another, yet there are clear stand-outs: “Doo Wop (That Thing)” resonates as truly as ever, and hearing my favorite song off the album live is a gorgeous moment of the night, as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” glissandos and reverberates around my heart.
Soon after, Ms. Lauryn Hill calls on some special guests on stage. With her children and mother by her side, Hill reveals the driving force behind her performances. “I stand here in the name of God, and I do it because God is the one who allows me to do it,” she declares. This speech entertains me, and I am nodding along and happily chuckling in agreement at the sheer conviction Ms. Lauryn Hill uses to describe her legacy and work. In a heartfelt tribute to her mother, Hill expresses gratitude for the strong women who played a pivotal role in raising her children as she pursued her musical journey. She brings out a birthday cake, and the audience sing along, wishing her a happy birthday, unclear as to how old she is turning.
The atmosphere becomes charged with emotion as Hill reflects on her solo success following “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Despite facing a lack of industry support after the album’s commercial triumph, the Grammy winner remains unyielding. “So I went around the world, and I played the same album over and over again. Because we’re the survivors. Not just the survivors, we’re the thrivers,” she proclaims during her speech. She brings her son out to perform his song, and instructs him to dance. I imagine how it feels to be an artist trying to create your own name under the light of your mother’s legacy, and weigh the advantages and challenges in my head as I ponder their mother-son interactions on stage.
When the Fugees reunite on stage, the crowd goes crazy, singing every song, and joining the chaotic kaleidoscope of sounds are Hill’s hype men, who “brr” and “yeah, yeah” their way around the empty air that lingers between chords and verses. The speakers are loud and commanding, and the experience can only be described as immersive. Lauryn Hill’s Los Angeles concert is more than a musical performance; it is a testament to resilience, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of artistic passion. At the same time, there is a campy humility I can find between the gravity of Ms. Lauryn Hill’s normalcy as a mother and daughter, and the star wattage she possesses which bends all to her will. I see someone that reminds me of my auntie, cranked up to a thousand, up on stage, touting love as the answer, and in her full element, in self-love and fulfillment. Hill’s journey, from the heights of commercial success to the challenges of industry neglect, unfolds on the stage. Her dedication to her craft, even in the face of vocal strain, resonates with the crowd.
In the resounding echoes of Lauryn Hill’s voice filling the Crypto.com Arena, the audience is not just witnessing a concert; they are immersed in a narrative that transcends music, almost like being in her living room and discussing her story and life. Amidst timeless melodies and soulful performances, Lauryn Hill stands tall, unapologetically embracing her journey and sharing her resilience with an audience eager to be part of her unfolding story.