Lauryn Hill, Celebrity Theatre, 11/28/12
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"The ladies here, right?" she asked as the band eased into "Ex-Factor," an emotional highlight of the evening. The band's taut groove didn't sound unlike the sort of thing The Weeknd or Drake might do today, but instead of cold detachment, Hill exploded over the track, seething, scat singing, and cooing until the band joined her in emotion, the guitars stinging and ringing out. It was a knockout.
Following the turbulence of "Black Rage," Hill dropped into a set of Fugees material. The crowd went off as she demonstrated punk rock speed and James Brown-style control of her band during "How Many Mics." Every song was a workout, stretched and pulled by Hill to her satisfaction. "Fu-Gee-La" shined a light on the pitch-perfect trio of vocalists to Hill's side, and "Ready or Not," featured everyone on stage bouncing in synchronicity. Hill mentioned something about a "natural high;" the audience was clearly feeling it.
Hill exited the stage following a reprise rendition of "Killing Me Softly," and returned for an energetic encore. The band utilized the gospel message of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved," and improvised, at Hill's request of course, a performance of Friends of Distinction's "Going in Circles," a special treat for Phoenicians inspired by Celebrity's rotating stage.
She closed with her classic, "Doo Wop (That Thing)." "We gonna see you again," she repeated as a mantra as the band dropped to low murmur, "God willing we gonna see you again." As the band revved back up, Hill effortlessly singing over the roar, it felt like a genuine promise. Hope to see you again very soon, Ms. Hill.
Read on for the setlist and Critic's Notebook.