Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., May 6, 2011
Lauryn HillStubb's, May 1
"Long time no see," deadpanned Lauryn Hill, striding onstage at Stubb's on an unusually chilly night. After conquering the pop world with her sensational solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998, the singer chose motherhood over music and has lived a famously private life. The rust showed, beginning with a clunky start as Hill demanded for five full minutes that her sixpiece band and three backup singers "build it up" and add "more drama" before launching into "Everything Is Everything." A flat "Sweetest Thing" was followed by a lively "Lost Ones," which was marred by feedback and sound problems. Mother of five Marley grandchildren, Hill's ode to her youngest son, "To Zion," prepped covers of "Waiting in Vain" and "Is This Love." Conducting the band with stinging arm gestures, a trick that works when commands are followed with James Brown-style precision – which wasn't the case here – Hill began losing her audience to texting and Tweeting as news of Osama bin Laden's death hit. Hill recorded her MTV Unplugged session months before the 9/11 attacks. On a night that brought a semblance of closure to those attacks, Hill struggled to find her footing after spending most of the past decade in hiding. Before closing with 1990s anthem "Doo Wop (That Thing)" under the bright 10:30pm curfew lights of Stubb's, she was at her best on four Fugees classics. Imploring her band to "make it more quick," Hill sped through "How Many Mics," "Fu-Gee-La," and "Ready or Not" as if she were rapping to make up for lost time.