Lauryn Hill's Moving Target Intimate Playdate Series
Sunday, March 20
Better Than: Hill's Saturday set at Jazz in the Gardens.
At 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Crossfade broke the news about Ms. Lauryn Hill's last-minute Moving Target playdate at Grand Central. And almost immediately, the haters were out and haunting the comments section, even though it was the middle of the freaking night.
One naysayer, Pamar30, was bummed out by Hill's Jazz in the Gardens gig, writing: "I love Lauryn but I was truly disappointed with tonight's performance. So not interested in a repeat perfomance." And george added: "People left in droves ... This band is not tight... And lose the retarded wig and wardrobe for god's sake."
Honestly, Crossfade can understand all the hating and complaining. But we just don't agree. When Ms. Hill hit up the University of Miami homecoming, it was awesome. In fact, one of 2010's best Miami concerts. And even Jazz in the Gardens (which we admitted in the recap wasn't Lauryn's most flawless set) still showed flashes of deep genius.
Last night, though, there was absolutely nothing flawed about Ms. Lauryn Hill. She totally slayed the haters.
The playdate officially started at 1:10 a.m. when Hill's deck man DJ Rampage dropped the needle on her classic 1996 collabo "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" with Nas. This track seems to have become the de facto signal at every show that Lauryn's ready for her people. And so, out wandered the band as Rampage cut into the snotty refrain ("You fancy, huh?") from Drake's "Fancy."
A minute later, Hill strode out, dressed in a little cap, bob wig, tweed jacket, black harem pants, a blouse with a white leopard's face across the front, and tons of funky chunky jewelry. She told the crowd, "You look good tonight." And then she slipped into last night's variation on her standard setlist, beginning with "Everything Is Everything" and "Sweetest Thing."
Continuing to sift though Miseducation material, Hill and her band wound out tighter and tighter takes of her old solo stuff -- "Lost Ones," "Superstar," "To Zion." The only exception was a version of "When It Hurts So Bad" that never hit any kind of real groove.
Generally, though, unlike Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium, nothing fell off-balance or out-of-sync. And then the first half of the show wrapped with an ungodly strong cover of Bob Marley's "Is This Love."
That's when the serious hater-slaying began with a slashing sci-fi rock reconstruction of "How Many Mics." The entire place spat and sang along with Lauryn. They pogo-ed with her. They threw hands to the sky with her. And when the riffing and raging was over, Hill and the band seemed genuinely shocked and stoked, smiling and laughing as if it was the best thing they'd ever played.
Then, bleeding from a slow-burning cover of the Flamingos oldie "I Only Have Eyes for You" to "Zealots," which samples that previous song, the energy shot up even higher. Tearing through "Fu-Gee-La" and "Ready or Not," there was an intense exchange of psychic energy between Hill, her band, and the crowd. Trapped together in the dark and close quarters of a club, it was like an intense feedback loop that reached peak intensity with the set's last song, "Killing Me Softly."
The club went dark. Ms. Hill disappeared backstage. But it was only a tease. If you've seen any of her recent shows, you alreaddy knew that two more songs -- "Turn the Lights Down Low" and "Doo Wop (That Thing)" - were definitely part of the plan. But like DJ Rampage was saying: "How much do you want more Ms. Lauryn Hill?"
There was screaming, wild clapping, and chanting pleas. She didn't make her fans wait long. Within minutes, Hill was back at the mic, smiling, and singing another Marley tune. And then, as she does every night now, she closed her encore with "Doo Wop" and a sing-along, calling on the ladies for "Girls, you know you better watch out/Some girls, some girls are only about/That thing, that thing, that thing" and then the men for the flip of that lyric.
As her band kept playing, Hill said: "Goodnight." The crowd screamed: "We love you, Lauryn." And Hill reciprocated: "I love you too, Miami," promising, "We're gonna do this again soon."
It sounds like Ms. Lauryn Hill might already have a set of secret plans.
The Crowd: A gathering of 400 young yet grown types who could stay out on Sunday night till 4 a.m. and not give a shit about getting up in the morning for the office.
Random Detail: Hill's fingernails and toes were did up with fluorescent orange paint. The girls in the front row were fawining all over that flash.
Lauryn Hill's Setlist:
-"Everything Is Everything"
-"When It Hurts So Bad"
-"Is This Love" (Bob Marley cover)
-"How Many Mics"
-"I Only Have Eyes for You" (Flamingos cover)
-"Ready or Not"
-"Killing Me Softly"
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-"Turn Your Lights Down Low" (Bob Marley cover)
-"Doo Wop (That Thing)"