Gig review: Lauryn Hill @ O2 Apollo Manchester

Lauryn Hill killed her audience softly last night as the former Fugees singer left thousands of fans dying in anticipation as they waited hours for her to grace the stage.

Even hours before she graced the stage there was a mixed sense of excitement, cynicism and dyed-in-the-wool appreciation in the line of music fans who lined outside the Manchester O2 Apollo from 6pm.

Once inside the 3,500 capacity theatre, the atmosphere seemed drab and lifeless, seats were empty, people scrolled through their phones and exchanged anxious glances to and throw.

Was this £50 ticket worth the money?

One hour into the show, fans were treated to a two-hour long set by DJ Rampage, who spun classic neo-soul tracks from Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Angie Stone.

Old school bangers from Mos Def, Q-Tip, Biggie Smalls, Nas and Foxy Brown were also thrown into the mix, as well as club anthems from Beenie Man, Mr Vegas Chronixx.

It’s fair to say that the DJ had certainly earned his money.

Despite this, one question remained on everyone’s lips. Where is Ms Hill?

By 10pm patience had worn thin, members of the standing crowd had taken off their shoes, while the sitting crowd were seen holding their heads in their hands.

But an obligatory band melody and a few strobe lights later, Hill’s distinctive tones travelled throughout the now packed theatre as her rendition of Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel boomed from the behind the stage.

It was finally time for Lauryn Hill to grace the stage.

Dressed in a wide brimmed bowlers hat, a flirty skater dress, glittery tights and strappy knee high gladiator heels, Hill set the stage alight with her spirited, quirky presence.

Cheers echoed throughout the theatre as she danced her way through remixed adaptations of tracks from her critically acclaimed album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her only solo studio album.

While musically engaging with her equally as feisty backing singers and band, Hill’s creative u-turn didn’t have a consistent effect on her fans.

The chances of singing along to classics like Killing me Softly, Final Hour and Ex-Factor were blown out of the water by electronic synths, dubstep beats and enigmatic Latino flavours that ran through her once iconic soulful melodies.  

There was even a moment during the show when Lauryn stopped singing and addressed her unhappy crowd asking, ‘where are the dissenters?’

Things started to get better in the second half of the show as she treated the crowd to a handful of Fugees tracks including Fu-Gee-La and Ready or Not.

But it was her finale of Doo Wop that brought fans to their feet.

Despite her dubious exploration of musical style throughout the event and her lax punctuality, it was clear that Hill still had ‘It’.

The voice the world had fanatically become accustomed to still worked the crowd.

From the crowd booing her wayward punctuality, to telling aggravated audience members to ‘shush’ while she addressed an unhappy fan half-way through her set – this was certainly not your average show.

Ready or not, Ms Hill implausibly brought home the fact that the Manchester had just witnessed an enigma of an artist – even if she was nearly one and a half hours late.

Image courtesy of TheFugeesVEVO, via YouTube, with thanks.

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