Recap and Gallery: Ms. Lauryn Hill and dead prez
May 19, 2011
Ms. Lauryn Hill, again dressed in a long billowy gown, came back Wednesday night to the Bay Area in her third such appearance in a little over a month, bringing with her to the Mezzanine in San Francisco her usual backing band and perhaps a different demeanor. The stage, tightly spaced but larger than the one at The New Parish that barely contained her ensemble, appeared to carry more weight than usual with a special Bob Marley tribute, where Hill would sandwich her usual set with several Marley classics. Maybe it’s that she is doing a special tribute to a man whose bloodline she carried for so many months and years, but she definitely came with a different, more particular attitude.
At her last show in the Bay that she co-headlined with Dave Chappelle last month, she was seemingly relaxed and grateful. This time, it appeared to matter more, with her snapping at the sound crew more than any of the three appearance I’ve seen her live. At the same time, the first few Marley covers of the set, including “Pimper’s Paradise,” “Natty Town,” and “Trench Town,” although performed well, didn’t seem to satisfy her much. Either the sound really was that bad or perhaps other things led to her discomfort. Or maybe the crowd, a finicky bunch who earlier had already shouted out her DJ’s warmup set with calls of “Lauryn! Lauryn!,” didn’t seem to respond much to the more obscure parts of Marley’s catalog.
The turning point came when Lauryn move onto her own past records. Ms. Hill moved and sang with her usual gusto an energetic performance she honed from months on tour; she performed with relative comfort and the crowd responded in kind. By the time she got to her usual encore song, her duet with a recorded Bob Marley for “Good Lovin,” the crowd seemed ready for anything else she had for them. That’s when she played her best arrangements of Marley covers, including the two she played for Jimmy Fallon last week, “Chances Are,” and “Could You Be Loved.” A bit of a shame that the 2am curfew hit not too long after she hit the exhilarating “Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up now!” bridge in “Could You Be Loved,” which easily, by far, the climax of the entire performance.
Joining the Bay Area chapter of the been-around-so-long-they-might-as-well-be-from-here club that might include Dave Chappelle and Lauryn Hill were show openers dead prez, the purportedly Brooklyn-based crew that frankly feel like they should be from somewhere between The Bay (ie, Zion-I) and Seattle (ie, Blue Scholars). In any case, whatever spacial wave frequency that dead prez was inhabiting nevertheless was already populated by the very people in the crowd, which might seem surprising given the disparity between their militant anthems and Lauryn Hill’s soulful melancholy.
Unrepentant and unmoved by the small signs of progress in the last few years, dead prez remained defiant in their politics. For instance, they amended the lyrics to their anti-tax track “W-4” with the line, “Obama, gimme my shit back, biaaaaach!” In another missive, frontman M-1 declares, “I’m not about this BS on CNN or CSPAN about how the Governator fucked his maid. I’m talking about how there’s no justice for Oscar Grant.” In this heavily-female crowd however, there was plenty of a softer side to show. Not only did they play “Mind Sex,” they flipped B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” with their own lyrics to the delight of the audience.
Here’s Ms. Lauryn Hill’s playlist for the night.
Waiting in Vain
Is This Love
Everything Is Everything
How Many Men
Fu Gee La
Ready Or Not
Killing Me Softly
Could You Be Loved
Ms. Hill returns to tour with stops in Eugene, OR 5/20, Seattle, WA 5/22, and Vancouver, BC 5/24 and 5/25.