Killing Them Softly: Lauryn Hill at The Bomb Factory

– Words by Daniela Alfaro-Herrera / Photos by James Villa –
The Bomb Factory – Dallas, TX – Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Lauryn Hill (The Bomb Factory - Dallas, TX) 4/30/16 ©2016 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

If you were to ask someone these days if they would consider seeing Lauryn Hill in concert anytime soon, they would probably cringe and ask why would they ever consider that.

Lauryn Hill has been known to cancel, start late, or even worse not show up at all to her own shows. A quick browser search can attest to the latter statement.  Some would say the acclaimed musician may have lost her touch.

Those worst case scenarios that were partly expected to happen this night did not come to fruition.

As her well versed DJ took the stage his words enticed the crowd by referencing “The Fugees”,  and Ms Hill’s lone album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, all while playing select tidbits of Hip Hop classics.  His 20 minute set lead into Nas’ “If I Ruled The World”, which set the crowd into a frenzy as Ms Hill made her way onto the stage.

Lauryn Hill (The Bomb Factory - Dallas, TX) 4/30/16 ©2016 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

“Hear she comes,” murmured some girls behind me. Even in a hushed tone you could hear their enthusiasm.

Ms. Hill’s long, see-through tulle duster flowed in what seemed like the wind; her mighty earrings — shaped like exclamation marks — making her presence all the more massive. Those wardrobe accessories made a clear statement; and it was apparent that the crowd had a longing for her.

The live band that accompanied her re-structured her entire set list, though no one in the audience seemed to be phased by it. At some points, Ms. Hill seemed to rush through her music. The songs she performed all sounded fresh, but still full of soul and familiarity.

She was incredibly lively while performing her hits, dancing with her bandmates (which included some back-up singers) and wiping away sweat with a little black rag in hand.

There were moments when she seemed to be slightly annoyed by the sound engineer off in the wings, it was hard to tell wether it was truly an issue or just part of the set.  Standing only a few rows from the stage, it was hard to hear what all the fuss was about.  At times it seemed as if the sound quality wasn’t up to her standards. However, after a quick break to address things, she returned to her groove, feeling the music even stronger than before.

Lauryn Hill (The Bomb Factory - Dallas, TX) 4/30/16 ©2016 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

Ms. Hill’s small, but powerful hands orchestrated the band around her with a great deal of animation. She steadied into some Fugees hits, and when asking Dallas if “they were ready”, the crowd anticipated “Ready or Not”, making it the highlight of the night. Everyone swayed back and forth, feeling the 90’s hip hop energy it conveyed.

Can an artist make you feel like you just traveled back in time? The answer, predictably, is yes. She justified being the only Fugee in presence for “Killing Me Softly” and “Fu-Gee-La” with her one of a kind raspy, melodic voice making it feel like no one missed Pras or Wyclef.

Afterwards, the atmosphere kept shifting, as Ms. Hill and her band broke into some Bob Marley and The Wailers covers. She embodied Nina Simone while performing “Feelin’ Good”, and her silhouette would’ve made onlookers do a double take just to be sure it was Hill.

Lauryn Hill (The Bomb Factory - Dallas, TX) 4/30/16 ©2016 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

Closing the night with “Doo Wop”, there was a desire in the crowd for an encore, but it was clear that would be the finale. Well chosen, it is arguably her most popular song.

Ms. Hill arrived on time, directed her band with passion, and gave Dallas a crucial performance. This show was a necessity for Lauryn Hill lovers and naysayers alike. It exhibited the value of her songs more than a decade later, and made known that while Ms. Hill may have been shrouded in negativity over her decisions relating to music or performances in more recent years, she’s still in her prime.

Even though her set was just slightly under 2 hours.  Ms Hill didn’t hesitate to take some time before walking off the stage to show fans that she truly appreciated them.  After shaking a few hands, she signed some vinyl records for fans in the audience.

James Villa