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Ambition Versus Expectation: What do performers owe their crowds?

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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 first 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 →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Nas and Lauryn Hill at The Electric Factory, Benjamin Gibbard at The Keswick Theatre, The Fleeting Ends at The Fire

New York rapper Nas brings his Life is Good tour to The Electric Factory tonight for a show with Lauryn Hill.  The legendary lyricist released his seventh and critically acclaimed studio album in July, following up 2010′s Distant Relatives collaboration with Damian Marley.  South Jersey’s Lauryn Hill is also sharing some new material on the tour; the influential soul/hop hop artist debuted a new track called “Black Rage”, though the ex-Fugee hasn’t released a solo album since 2002.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show can be found here.  Jhene Aiko will open the all-ages show. Below, watch Lauryn Hill’s surprise performance with The Roots on the 4th of July.

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Just Announced: Nas, Lauryn Hill coming to the Electric Factory on Nov. 7

Legendary New York City rapper Nas is bringing the tour in support of his eleventh studio album, Life is Good, to Philadelphia on November 7 for an appearance at The Electric Factory. Opening is soul favorite Lauryn Hill, who last graced the stage in Philadelphia this summer for an impromptu appearance with The Roots at the Welcome America Festival. Tickets for the show go on sale this Friday. Below, watch a video of Lauryn Hill jamming with The Roots on the parkway.

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In Case You Missed It: Lauryn Hill joined The Roots at the 4th of July Welcome America Festival

Hometown hip-hop heroes The Roots have been prominently featured in Philly’s 4th of July festivities for five years running, and each time they manage to step up their game. Amid the massive Independence Day heat on the Ben Franklin Parkway during last week’s Welcome America Festivial, the band ushered on a surprise appearance from soul / reggae / hiphop star Lauryn Hill. She performed a half-hour set touching on the hits from her 1998 album The Mis-Education Of Lauryn Hill, some throwbacks from her days with the 90s fusion band The Fugees, and a exuberant cover of Bob Marley’s classic “Could You Be Loved.” Check out a slideshow above care of photographer Brandee Nichols (who was covering the festival for JUMP Philly) and watch video of Hill’s full set below. Continue reading →