Thursday, 14 July 2016

Reverse Culture Shock, Epic Lightening and Accomplishing Childhood Dreams: A night with Lauryn Hill

There have been many a rainy, or perhaps more frequently, snowy day that involved braving the weather and jumping from my home to my next door neighbour's house. Many of these inclement weather excursions involved watching Sister Act 2.

While the film is overall pretty great, there is one scene in particular that has always stayed with me - the moment where a character down on her luck, bursts out into one of the most powerful versions of Joyful, Joyful I have ever heard. A clip that - thanks to the powers of YouTube - I have been able to replay over and over, every time giving me goosebumps and frequently bringing a tear to my eye the moment she hits that first note. And that lady was played by the one, the only, Lauryn Hill.

Now if we travel back in time a bit, several months ago, while I was in Uganda, a friend posted on the 'ol Book of Faces that Lauryn Hill would be playing at Halifax Jazz Fest. This immediately prompted a call home to put the pressure on to score some tickets. Thankfully, my awesome brother was able to snag a few and the dream of seeing this incredibly gifting singer, songwriter began to unfold.

Before I knew it, it was July 12. I was having a pretty stressful/not-so-wonderful day. I feared the worst. It was an omen that Ms. Hill would not take the stage, as she's known for being a no-show or flat out refusing to perform because she doesn't like the crowd's energy. I was anxious all day. In fact, this was probably the most risky investment of my life... sadly. So when my brother called to tell me he was on his way, I nearly had a meltdown, because I thought he was calling to say she would not be performing. I also happened to scare the pants off of the mob of other concert-goers around me, until I gave the all-clear that that was not the intent of the phone call.

Fastforward to entering the venue - which was not at the Casino, as I'd thought. They scan my ticket, and I walk up to the two or three security people while trying to unzip my bag. And they all just looked at me funny. No security check. They didn't care what contents were in the material that clung around my shoulder. And I felt uncertain. I was confused. And then I realized I was in Nova Scotia - security checks are few and far between. And while that gives me a sense of comfort, it's also deeply concerning...

I then met up with a friend and we were sitting and chatting and enjoying the perfect summer evening while waiting for the show to begin. All of a sudden panic struck - I didn't bring bug spray! What if I got Malaria?! Oh... wait... I'm in Nova Scotia - that's not a thing here. Where I thought I've been the last three months, I have no idea, but I certainly forgot I'd been home. And that's pretty much the first time since arriving home that I felt the discomfort of reverse culture shock, aside from my hesitation at crosswalks.

But, as 9PM began to edge more closely to 10PM, we started to get nervous. Was my anticipation to see Ms. Hill about to be dashed?

And then it happened. She took the stage. Everyone went crazy. She played a few incredible songs - mind-blowing songs. And then it began to thunder and lightening, causing the band and songstress to leave the stage.

The lightship was incredible! And for awhile I felt sorry for Lauryn, because people seemed to be way more taken by the lightening than her. But come one, it was pretty epic... minus the torrential downpour that followed it.

This was shot during the unplanned intermission light show!
Photo credit/source: TJ Maguire/
After a good hour break, including some cleanup time on stage, Ms. Hill returned with her band, and played one bang on set! Honestly - that lady is unbelievably talented. She played well past the midnight sound by-law, but no one seemed to care - it was incredible. Songs from her one and only solo album, some classic hits, and even a few Fugees tunes to end off the night!

It was certainly well worth the wait, the rain, and the anxiety related to no-show fears. And although she didn't rehash her rendition of Joyful Joyful it didn't matter. Hands down one of the best live performances I have ever been witness to.

Thanks for showing up, Ms. Hill. And thanks for a night that will not soon be forgotten!

-the Orange Canadian

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