Hundreds of Memphis-area residents were incredibly eager and excited about attending the sold-out concert of living legend Lauryn Hill last Saturday (July 18th) at Minglewood Hall in Midtown. Although she has but one solo album under her belt, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is such a magnificent body of work that 16 years later it still is more significant than most of the contributions by today’s artists.
True artists withstand the test of time. Embracing that thought, I was one of the many fans who were beyond thrilled to learn that Lauryn was making a comeback and – more importantly – putting Memphis on her tour. Perhaps it was our eagerness and excitement that contributed to the disappointment, but none of us could have anticipated that the night would be such a letdown.
Fans arrived early because all tickets were the same price and it was understood that there would be general admission. So the earlier you arrived, the closer you’d possibly be to Lauryn Hill. Many who purchased tickets in advance were under the impression that the concert was to begin at 8 p.m. Those who picked up their tickets at will call received tickets that said 9 p.m. was the starting time.
Early birds such as myself arrived a little before 7 p.m. and earned a pretty good position in line. The staff at Minglewood opened the doors around 8:15. As concertgoers were let into the entertainment space we all learned that we’d be standing during the duration of the event. There were no chairs for the weary and little did we know that soon enough we would become quite weary.
No one was on stage when we entered the entertainment space and no music played until about 8:30. Eventually a hype man took the stage and introduced the opening act, The ReMINDers. Many of us hadn’t heard of this dynamic hip-hop duo, but after this night we probably won’t forget them. They were the best part of the night, with eclectic beats, incredible energy and awesome stage presence.
The ReMINDers actually are the reason why a swell of patrons weren’t demanding a refund at the box office. The multi-faceted married combo took the stage around 8:45 and kept us entertained for over an hour with music that educated and reinvigorated weary women standing in uncomfortable shoes and impatient men who had grown tired of waiting for Lauryn to arrive.
After The ReMINDers left the stage around 9:40, we all were expecting the night’s star to finally grace us with her presence. From the span of about 9:45 until 11, fans mingled, danced to the tunes of various DJ’s, chanted “we want Lauryn” and even received campaign literature from none other than television’s Judge Joe Brown.
With fans disillusioned and disgruntled, Hill made a grand entrance onto the stage after her musicians and backup dancers about 11:10 p.m. We all hoped she’d knock our socks off and make us forget that we hadn’t really been entertained in almost two hours – and that we’d been standing up for almost five hours.
Unfortunately, the performance was not what we’d expected. Hill’s vocals were less than perfect and she sang unfamiliar renditions of her hits. Throughout her performance she constantly motioned to her band to play louder or bring up the music – things that should’ve been perfected before she even went on tour. The crowd became more lethargic and started to diminish with each song.
As I left, I heard the displeasure of many concertgoers who had strong feelings about the venue accommodations and about how unprofessional Hill seemed to be.
The thing about fans is that when we are treated fairly we are quite loyal, and when we are upset we are extremely angry. I certainly hope Ms. Hill doesn’t treat fans in other cities the way that we were treated because I’m quite sure we Memphians won’t be as excited if she comes to town again.