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Ms. Lauryn Hill spans genres and cultures for a fired-up Diaspora Calling show at The Mann

Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Eighteen years almost to the day after the release of her landmark solo album, Ms. Lauryn Hill played to a fired-up crowd of fans at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in West Philly. Her multi-platinum albums, both solo and with Fugees, still stand as hip hop and neo-soul titans, an achievement certainly worth an evening of anniversary acknowledgement.

Saturday’s show in Philly was the opening night of Hill’s MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! Concert Series, touted as an ensemble event celebrating the artistic and cultural legacy of African disapora.
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Prep for Lauryn Hill’s Mann Center show by streaming her appearance on Austin City Limits

Afropunk 2015
Afropunk 2015 | Photo by Morgan Smith | phobymo.com

Later this month, the inimitable Ms. Lauryn Hill kicks off a fall tour at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts…and that’s about all we can say with any certainty, since Hill’s performances are very fluid and in the moment. This has earned her the ire of some fans, who just want to hear the songs performed exactly the way they sounded on The Score and Mis-Education — ahem, people standing behind me at Hill’s Stellar Electric Factory show a couple years ago. But I honestly do believe that most of the concertgoing public doesn’t want total and complete predictability, is open to being taken for a ride. And as I said in the wake of Hill’s Factory show, if you go into it prepared, it can be quite exceptional. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Lauryn Hill will headline the Mann Center for the Performing Arts this summer

Ms. Lauryn Hill | via facebook.com/mslaurynhill

Super exciting news of the day: singer-songwriter-r&b-soul-hip-hop great Lauryn Hill – or Ms. Lauryn Hill, if you prefer – returns to Philly this summer to headline a show at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, August 27th. Tickets go on sale Thursday, June 30th at 10 a.m., and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Lauryn Hill at The Keswick Theatre, DRGN King at Everybody Hits, Big Terrible at MilkBoy

Lauryn Hill onstage at the Bowery Ballroom | photo by Wei Shi via consequenceofsound.net
Lauryn Hill onstage at the Bowery Ballroom | photo by Wei Shi via consequenceofsound.net

On the heels of her iconic 1998 album The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill being inducted into Library of Congress this week, the singer / songwriter takes the stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside tonight. Unlike last fall’s show at the Electric Factory, which was full band and freewheeling, tonight finds Lauryn in acoustic mode, reminiscent of her Unplugged 2.0 album. Get tickets and information about the show at the XPN Concert Calendar, and watch a performance of “Turn Your Lights Down Low” from last fall below. Continue reading →

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Ambition Versus Expectation: What do performers owe their crowds?

LaurynBob
Bob Dylan onstage in Maui | photo by George F. Lee via honolulupulse.com || Lauryn Hill onstage at the Bowery Ballroom | photo by Wei Shi via consequenceofsound.net

Confession time. The one time I saw Bob Dylan, I walked out.

His performance was disappointing, more than a little bit sad, and got me thinking about unspoken agreement between artist and audience. When a concert is so drastically different from the expectations behind it, did the crowd get shortchanged?

It was the XPoNential Music Festival two summers ago, the year of the colossal rain storm. I was soaked to the bone, sticking it out for my chance to see the American songwriting legend who was responsible for Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks and so so many more classics. I knew he wasn’t going to play the songs the way they sounded on the album; I knew his voice wasn’t what it once was. And I was okay with that, because I’m generally comfortable with artists taking artistic liberties – and let’s face it, Dylan was never a great singer.

But I wasn’t prepared for how bad it was going to be. A half hour or so into the set, the band – who seemed to all be skilled players, for sure – was in the middle of a wandering, free-form expanse while Dylan’s barely audible voice croaked indiscernibly along. At one point, he uttered something that sounded vaguely like “Pourin’ off of every page / Like it was written in my soul from me to you” and I realized, OH GOD, this is supposed to be “Tangled Up in Blue.” I gave up. I went home.

I’ve been thinking about that Dylan concert this week for a couple reasons; one, because he just played three nights at the Academy of Music and was reportedly quite good. And two, because I recently reviewed Lauryn Hill’s show at the Electric Factory and roughly criticized the crowd for doing exactly what I did during Dylan’s set. Continue reading →

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Five reasons you should be freaking out about Lauryn Hill’s Electric Factory show this weekend

Lauryn Hill on the cover of Rolling Stone circa 1998
Lauryn Hill on the cover of Rolling Stone circa 1999

This is not an article for the haters. I mean, If you want to find an excuse to complain about Lauryn Hill, it’s out there. The singer, songwriter and onetime Fugee hasn’t released a proper album in 16 years. The record she’s reportedly been making with Phil Nicolo has been scrapped and restarted more times than anybody knows. Her shows are expensive, they don’t start on time, blah blah blah. Know what? I don’t care about any of that narrow-minded groupthink Internet echo chamber nonsense, because Hill is coming to Philly for a headlining show on Saturday night and I’m freaking pumped. You should be too, and here’s why. Continue reading →