It was a good idea at the time. I mean, how many chances do you get to see a star of that magnitude do her thing? Plus the venue, the Blue Note, delivered on the intimate setting the tour advertised. So yeah, we could actually see her do her thing.
To prep for the date, I went through the archives to pull out her unofficial second album and further realized that as a talent, there aren’t too many who rest on that terrain. Entitled “MTV Unplugged No. 2.0,” the album comprised all new material, recorded live in front of a studio audience, as well as the millions of her adoring fans watching from the comforts of their homes on MTV. As if that weren’t risky enough, the material was sparse musically but weighed heavy lyrically—a combination that allowed those who were on the team from day one for real, who had the patience to let her grow at her own pace, knowing that when she was ready to once again deliver, a seismic shift in the consciousness of future generations was potentially on the horizon. That’s how fans of Ms. Lauryn Hill feel about her.
The day of the show arrived, and like she said throughout her slept-on second project, reality made its way to the fore. Under the directive of the venue, ticket holders for the late show, at 10:30 p.m., were urged to arrive at, say, 9:45 p.m. for the better seat selections. Not a bad suggestion, except for one thing: the New York City winter weather. As 9:45 turned to 10:45, and patrons hadn’t been seated, the reality of February kicked in. It was cold. The only thing that kept us going was the boiling blood at being told an hour later that we had 15 more minutes before entry.
Because the tickets were nonrefundable, and the price per ticket was astronomical, we were literally hostages if we didn’t want to lose the dough. A reality many didn’t want to believe had set in—respect for our support or time isn’t on the artist’s agenda.
By the time the show began, at roughly 12:20 a.m., an “us against them” barrier had been raised by the majority in attendance. We wanted to be wowed. Pyro, dancers, MC Hammer-like dance routines, Wyclef, Pras, John Forte and Nas. Instead, we got truth. We got our spirits lifted. We got soul. In retrospect, she did come out swinging from the gate with the combination of “Conformed to Love” and “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind.” But nowhere between her renditions of fan favorites, such as “I Get Out,” “Mr. Intentional” and “Ex Factor,” were the three words that could have righted the ship: Sorry I’m late.
So instead, it took the brilliance of “Mystery of Iniquity” to get the room to think about things other than getting to work Thursday morning. The one time she and the audience were fully engaged was at the show’s conclusion number, “Do Wop (That Thing).” She jumped out of her seat to command the stage and we rocked out. For the moment, all was forgiven, but not forgotten.
As an analogy, it was like going to a game and your team is down by 30 at halftime and ends up losing the game by a point. A scintillating game, but a loss nonetheless. Not saying it’s me per se, but with the lack of empathy for your supporters, you just lost one plus one plus one … Fix that, Ms. Hill, cuz the game could use you.
Over and out, holla next week. Till then, enjoy the nightlife.