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Concert Reviews:
Lauryn Hill's "Miseducation" misfires at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2018

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- Ms. Lauryn Hill threw a party that made you want to cry, even if you didn’t’ want to, on Friday night, July 20, in the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill.

The singer and rapper was there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her debut solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” a multi-platinum landmark that won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. The show should have been joyous; Instead, it was a joke that sent fans home confused -- and booing.

The night was a train wreck from the get-go. Hill and her 15-piece ensemble were still on stage rehearsing and soundchecking nearly an hour and a half after doors to the venue opened. That pushed the entire five-act bill back an hour and 45-minutes and left Santigold to do her sound check in front of the arriving audience. Each set was marred by some degree of technical problems -- heritage rapper Busta Rhymes in particular was bothered by malfunctioning microphones -- and there was no evident attempt to adjust the show to maximize Hill’s time on stage.

As such, Hill -- who has a reputation as a buyer-beware act due to her own tardy habits -- walked on more than an hour after her set start time, with a hard curfew just 40 minutes away and no option to pay an overtime fine like at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. She made it through eight songs, not in sequence, from “The Miseducation...,” and hadn’t gotten to the album’s big hit, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” by the time the house lights came on and the PA was cut precisely at 11 p.m.

Hill, sporting a white ball gown, blue blazer and pink turban, might have salvaged something of the night if what she did play was stellar, but that wasn’t the case, either. Despite that lengthy sound check, the starting tracks “Lost Ones” and “Everything Is Everything” were plowed under by a loud, undefined mix that buried every instrument and vocal in a wall of sound. It got marginally better during the course of the set, but Hill’s high-volume vocals still had a shrill, brittle quality throughout. And there was a sense she and the group, who were aware of the curfew, were rushing to play as much as possible; There was no nuance to the performances, no pausing for breath, no time for stories or insights into what’s widely, and rightfully, considered one of the best albums of all time.

Hill and company did get off a couple of strong performances -- notably “When It Hurts So Bad” and “I Used To Love Him” -- but they blew by so quickly, and the takeaway image of the night will be Hill, awkwardly bowing and walking off without any PA power to even thank the audience.

Some props, however, should go to DJ Reborn, spinning between sets from the side of the stage. Not only did she play more music than any of the individual acts, her mix between Santigold and Hill had nearly the entire, two-thirds full crowd up and dancing in the aisles -- not just filling dead time but also providing something positive from an otherwise disappointing night.

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