As videos of her eldest son at different stages of his life played on the screen behind her, tears slowly rolled down Ms. Lauryn Hill‘s cheeks as she sang her heart out in her stirring tribute to him, “To Zion.” It was just one of the many hits off her double diamond solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, that is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Ms. Hill unfortunately had to postpone a large chunk of shows until next year, and her Philadelphia stop at Wells Fargo Center Saturday night was the last stop until her break. And when I say she pulled no punches in performing what may have been one of the best and most star-studded shows I’ve ever attended, I mean it.
With Questlove setting the tone early as people arrived with an amazing DJ set, Hill took the stage shortly after 10 p.m. and set out to give her fans in attendance over two and a half hours of master teachings. During the first hour, she hit us with records from her classic debut, an album that everyone from the hardest rocks to the softest people I knew were listening to when it was released. At a point before smoothly sliding into “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”, Ms. Hill spoke on the old soul records that inspired so much of her work. She mentioned the word timeless and how so much of the music that inspired her was. I realized as the crowd sang word for word each song from the album, that I was lucky enough to see when this album first landed and took the industry by storm, and then watched it grow up and become timeless.
The second half of the show was a change of pace. While so much of Miseducation is about reflection and understanding, the second half was packed with energy as her two former bandmates Pras and Wyclef joined Ms. Hill on stage, and the reunited Fugees began to get the crowd into a frenzy with vivacity. But not only did Pras and Wyclef come up but as they rolled into “Cowboys,” the legendary Outsidaz (who are featured on the track) joined them. Freeway jumped in the mix for “What We Do,” as well as The Delfonics, who did a medley of their classic records including blending their “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)” with The Fugees’ “Ready Or Not.” The Fugees also made it a point to especially give love to the Philly, because Ruffhouse Records based here was the only label to give them a shot. The Fu-Gee-La was thick in the air and we all left on a high, not more you can ask for!