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Reconsidering 'That Thing'

Bridgit Brown | 12/21/2010, 6:34 p.m.
Lauryn Hill’s Boston performance lacked luster(Liz Papi photos)Bridgit Brown ...

Lauryn Hill’s Boston performance lacked luster

Lauryn Hill performed at the Wilbur Theatre on Monday in what promoters called a stop in a series of concerts up and down the Eastern Seaboard this winter.

One fan of the former Fugees’ singer had seen her perform in Vermont just a few days before the Wilbur and tweeted that Boston was in for a special treat.

So warned, another fan trudged her way to the Wilbur through the season’s first snowfall and tweeted that Hill’s show was going to be the highlight of her year.

Sorry to disappoint but Hill was underwhelming. At 35, Hill is far from the 13-year-old girl singing “Who’s Lovin You” on stage at Amateur Night at the Apollo, circa 1987. Nor is she close to the soul-slick hip hop branded debutant that launched her solo career in 1998 with the “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” an album that earned her five Grammy Awards, The Album of the Year, and that also grossed $25 million in record sales and touring.

These days Ms. Hill, as she would like to be called, appears more black-centric and spiritual, and while she has not had an album since the release of the painful 2002 MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, she promised this night that she was working on something new.

She was a bit late for this sold-out performance and she wore what looked like a two-piece work dress similar to the one’s black American slave women wore during the mid-1800s. Her hair was blown out into a short Afro, and it looked as if her earrings were two halves of a CD or even a DVD. She had on a black turtleneck as an undershirt, and she wore a thick gold rope around her neck.

But the audience, mostly Millennials and Generation Xers who watched her climb the ladder of success and then step off of it like it was no sweat, cooed and sang along with her on the reprise of some of her most popular tunes during the hour-and-a- half-long gig.

But the tunes just didn’t sound the same. With three guitarists and a bass, plus three keyboardists, a drummer and three backup singers, those songs had lost a bit of their hip hop and even soulful flair. The music sounded like a mishmash of rock, RandB, hip hop, and something obscure. If you were hoping to hear the Doo Wop song or Zion the way they were originally done, you had better keep it in your playlist or bookmark them into your YouTube account. It did not happen at this show.

Hill definitely upped the tempo on all of the songs during this performance, which made the concert experience a bit disheartening. But the promise of something new is a good thing and everybody loves Hill no matter what she does. Just don’t hold your breath while waiting on another album from her, and don’t be surprised at what you hear when it finally drops.