By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
LAURYN HILLat the Hollywood Bowl, July 14
Lauryn Hill's relatively brief set as part of KCRW's Global Divas series was extraordinary. Lauryn came to slay L-Boogie, making it clear that any part of her old audience who didn't care for the new incarnation was free to leave. (The raising of the house lights before her set was even over almost seemed to say, "I'll make it easier for you to find your way out.") Hill, hip-hop's own Sinéad O'Connor, was old-school punk in her fierce determination to follow her muse, crowd be damned.
Those who could stop shouting futile requests for "Everything Is Everything" or "Ex-Factor" were rewarded with a fantastic show. Hill's voice was far stronger and more impassioned than on her current Unplugged CD; "Just Like Water" and "Selah" were especially beautiful. She also premiered brand-new tunes, including one called "Let Me Loose," whose blazingly defiant lyrics earned one of the night's strongest ovations. Armed with her guitar (she was accompanied by a percussionist on only a handful of selections, with the beat purposefully underscoring political and confessional points), she indulged in the barest of between-song banter, and was fiercely on guard whenever she wasn't singing, seemingly reserving all her focus for the music. At one point she chuckled wryly, "The songs are self-explanatory. I get that now," in clear reference to the scathing feedback she's gotten on Unplugged's candid chatter.
The steady stream of folks pouring out of the Bowl during the concert was disheartening but understandable -- and historically correct. In the handful of times that popular musical artists have truly reinvented themselves (new hairdos don't count), there's been stinging backlash -- from Dylan going electric to Joni moving into experiments with jazz. As Lauryn Hill fashions herself into something that's equal parts Bob Marley, Odetta and Nina Simone, she's shearing off a huge segment of her fans. It's self-immolation as rebirth. And if she pulls it off, she'll find herself standing with the greats. (Ernest Hardy)