Shropshire Star

Lauryn Hill, Arena Birmingham - review

‘As we all know, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill came out in 1998. So you’re either from that era or your parents are,’ said Hill’s DJ Reborn announcing the ‘living legend’ on to the stage.

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Lauryn Hill. Picture not taken in Birmingham.

An introduction which, before Hill had even sung a note, demonstrated the transcending relevance of her seminal and only solo album dealing with female empowerment, relationships and becoming a mother.

Arriving on stage typically late - although thankfully only by an hour; it had been two in Paris recently- Hill instantly mesmerised, commanding the crowd’s undivided attention.

Outstandingly beautiful, the 43 year old dressed in characteristically idiosyncratic style; full-length metallic trench coat over a maroon roll-neck and high-waisted trousers. Sparkling platform shoes elevated Hill’s frame, and the look was completed with a band of copper eyeshadow and black net head-dress over tightly cropped hair.

Performing the Grammy Award-winning album which marked her as the queen of neo soul, her vocals were sublime, and her rapping as raw and honest as ever.

Everything is Everything was lifted with a funky remix, while Superstar, sampling The Doors’ Light My Fire, displayed her ability to move seamlessly between genres, from soul to pop, doo-woop and rock.

The powerful, hurt-filled Ex Factor was a highlight, as was her cover of Frankie Valli’s hit Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

Dabbing away tears she put in an emotionally-charged performance of To Zion, the track written for her first-born son to Rohan Marley, who was attributed to helping inspire the album.

In fact, it was an altogether more humble and humane Hill on show, who took time to repeatedly thank her fans for two decades of support.

The band, a tight outfit of talent, helped Hill’s polished performance shine, however there was never any question of who was the star of the show. Very few stars - perhaps only the late Prince, Madonna, and Tina Turner in her prime - could claim such stage presence.

The crowd stayed well-past curfew for the penultimate track, an uplifting performance of her most well-known song Doo Wop (That Thing).

Her finale cover of the Fugees hit Killing Me Softly was perhaps unnecessary since this was a celebration of her solo work, but beautiful nonetheless.

Speaking about The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she said she wanted to create something that ‘honoured the past, walked in the present, and looked to future’. And 20 years on, it could not be more true.