Lauryn Hill, Celebrity Theatre, 11/28/12

Categories: Last Night

laurynhill-14.jpg
Melissa Fossum
See the complete Lauryn Hill @ Celebrity Theatre slideshow.

Lauryn Hill @ Celebrity Theatre|11/28/12
"Life out of context is living ungodly," Ms. Lauryn Hill sings in "Black Rage," the new song she's named her 2012 tour after.

Built over a jazzy interpolation of the Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things," the song is heavy, exploring the brutal and checkered history of Black America: "Two-thirds a person," "rapings," "beatings," "victims of violence both psyche and body." It's the centerpiece of her show, an important moment that underscores that Hill has never been into the idea of easy lyricism, and that she isn't afraid to approach uncomfortable, but important, topics. So when she finished the song to a sea of whoops and cheers, she must have wondered if the message was lost on the audience, and a sea of cellphone camera flash. "What did I just say?" she queried.

"Listen," she commanded. Then she recited the lyrics. Sans music, alone at the mic, the spotlight shining down in the darkened round of Celebrity Theatre. "Try if you must," she bellowed, "but you can't have my soul."

See also:

The Complete Lauryn Hill @ Celebrity Theatre Slideshow
Lauryn Hill Returns From the Pop Culture Abyss

laurynhill-5.jpg
Melissa Fossum
See the complete Lauryn Hill @ Celebrity Theatre slideshow.
Examining Hill's music without context feels similarly base. Her time with The Fugees in the mid-'90s established her as a powerful force in the world of hip-hop; her 1998 solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, earned her a spot at the top of the Billboard charts and five Grammy awards. But that "Black Rage" line about not getting her soul? It's a defining one for Hill. She retreated from the music world after Miseductation's success (and the success of a record she co-produced, Santana's Supernatural). She emerged in 2001 for an MTV Unplugged performance of sparse folk/soul compositions, but then returned to life out of the spotlight.

Her return to performance might be motivated by financial necessity, but it hardly matters. Hill, armed with a 12-piece band (11-piece, if the crouching guy with the MacBook wasn't contributing musically), was electrifying last night. Any return-to-stage jitters have been exorcised, and her commanding set of hip-hop, psychedelic rock, dub, soul, and reggae reminded everyone in the audience exactly why we've missed her so much.

Hill and band opened with a spacey dub version of "Killing Me Softly," her trio of background singer's voices echoing like they were trapped deep in belly of the Black Ark studios of lore. "We're going to turn the subjective into the objective," she stated as the band dove into a trippy take on "Everything Is Everything."


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Celebrity Theatre

440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

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PHXmusicdotcom
PHXmusicdotcom

@eshenayo @musicloverchick @MsLaurynHill Thanks! I loved the show (clearly).

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