Last night marked the first of Ms. Lauryn Hill’s four (currently) scheduled New York shows of her intimate Small Axe: Acoustic Performance Series. The New Jersey native kept her fans at the sold-out show waiting well past the 8pm open doors, which audience members spent huddled in the main room of the Williamsburg record store/venue/cafe, Rough Trade. Hill didn’t grace the stage until about 11:30pm.
Prior to her set, Hill fans were shown a gravely serious short film, narrated by Hill herself focusing on violence and Mozambique, followed by an oddly timed “warm up DJ” who attempted to get the crowd smiling again by spinning 80s and 90s disco/funk hits.
Finally, Hill picked up her guitar and began the show. A survey of the crowd revealed an even mix of career-long fans reverently bobbing their heads, neighborhood lookie-loos Googling who they had just spent over $100 to see, hard-to-watch dates attempting to bump and grind to extremely heavy-subject songs, and a security guard who passed his time by making paper roses and handing them out to any girl unlucky enough to make eye contact.
Lauryn, whose last original full-length, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, came out in 1998, played for two hours, resulting in an actually stunning run through of her solo staples, as well as old favorites from her time spent in Fugees. An obvious perfectionist, she often got derailed by fixating on the sound quality, or giving various directions to her band, but it didn’t take away from the show nearly as much as you could tell she thought it did.
Before closing the night she told the crowd she was going to try and figure out a way to invite everyone back so they could experience the show as it should be experienced. I got the sense that no one there felt that any improvements needed to be made, but would gladly take her up on her offer none the less…perhaps with less of wait time, Ms. Hill?
At one point towards the end of the evening a man affectionately shouted, “I can cross this off my bucket list.” To which Lauryn responded with “You’re too young to have a bucket list.”
If you missed Lauryn last night, you can catch one of her other upcoming shows:
SMALL AXE: ACOUSTIC PERFORMANCE SERIES DATES
2/20 New York, NY Highline
2/23 New York, NY Highline
2/25 New York, NY Blue Note (early and late show)