I’m trying to stamp out notes on my Blackberry in the dark at The Waterfront when local photographer Nina Pullella shouts in my ear, “She is giving this crowd so much credit!” Song three had just ended and still no sign of a mega radio hit from one Ms.Lauryn Hill. We’re already in disbelief that she took the stage before midnight but judging from her first words (“Long time no see!”) and her first few tracks, we know she is planning to make up for lost time tonight. Screw trying to take notes to explain this night later, I tell myself. I’m going to just enjoy it.
“To Zion,” a ballad for her first son (he’s one of six that Ms. Hill had brought along with her to Hawaii) is the perfect track for us to throw our heads back and wail to. The joooooy in our world was in Zion. Many of us aren’t clear whether we would even enjoy this show, but after four songs, she had already thanked Hawaii more than enough times to make up for the clusterfuck of a waiting game that was her last Hawaii concert. The true fans in the overcrowded venue are older, female and, like my friend Nina had had the The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on repeat for more than a decade.
Back to “To Zion.” Just having her share that track with us is enough to generate so much love and applause, you can bet we all went ballistic when she asked us if we would like to meet him. “Where’s Zion?” she asks in the microphone. “Do you want to meet Zion?” There’s some hustling offstage. If it was possible to cheer any louder, we do. We’re going to meet Ms. Hill’s first-born. Then not one, not two, but five children take the stage, their ages ranging from 3 to 12. One of the older kids is carrying baby Marley and hands her over to Ms. Hill. “Where’s Zion?” she asks her daughter. “He sleeping,” she says into the microphone as we all died. They sing back and forth for a while, proud mama and her baby girl who knows exactly how to sing, “Marching, marching, marching to Zion” with a little coaxing.
At this point, you can spot the mothers in the audience. So much love from this woman to the other women. The greatest gift a woman can know is a child (I hear), and she is sharing her children with us. It really couldn’t get much better. Of course, it did, when one of her older boys starts teaching us how to Dougie.
These moments at concerts happen and if it’s an act that’s highly anticipated, all there is is love. Long lines, agro concert-goers and parking headaches dissolve. We met Ms. Hill’s family. The time she dedicated to the crowd, and the diversity of tracks she chose to perform did more than redeem what happened at her 2006 show. It all went away right then and there and damn it felt good to let go. Add to this that Ms. Hill’s camp spent hours looking for local designer digs for her to wear on stage.
The woman is back and we heard her roar. Ballads to men we all know or have known, freestyles through “Superstar” and, yes, even the mega radio hits to close out the night. We got what we wanted and we hadn’t even wanted that much.