US singer Lauryn Hill performed at the Emirates Dubai Jazz Festival on Wednesday evening.
With a big crowd in attendance, the concert at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre felt intimate and conversational — yet like a sold-out stadium gig at the same time.
Hill appeared on stage with a long, flowing shocking-pink dress that had zebra-stripe sleeves and gave her a regal look.
A diamond mesh veil studded with jewels draped her entire face.
The dreadlocks of her early days have been replaced with a short hair-do, but the singer does not look a day older than she did in 1999 (despite working hard in the music industry and being a mum of six).
And party like it was 1999 she did on Wednesday.
“In 2018, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of my album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” the neo-soul singer told the audience. “This performance is a continuation of that celebration.”
Since its original release, that album has been ranked on numerous best lists, with some critics regarding it as one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, as well as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Hill set the tone for a night of singing, rap and poetry with renditions of her hit songs, ‘Lost Ones’ and ‘Everything is Everything’.
Her full band did not disappoint, blending drums, guitar, saxophone and keyboards to complement her poetic style of delivery. But from time to time they were still reprimanded by the maverick perfectionist, who would gesture for the backup singers to either raise or lower their voices, or keep quiet entirely.
A brief history of her early life ensued, in which she described how she had grown up in a musical family — listening to the likes of Sam Cooke, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.
But none of that prepared the crowd for the emotional roller-coaster that was about to follow.
Hill took to the microphone to decry how racial and religious tensions are impacting her country and other parts of the world.
“But we know at the bottom of it is fear and misunderstanding [between communities],” she said, before launching into a soulful performance of songs about injustice against marginalised communities in the US and elsewhere.
She called on humanity to aspire to elevate each other. Intense.
And then it was back to the hits with ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (You’re Just Too Good To Be True)’.
It was like chasing your antibiotics with a smoothie. The ode to love helped the audience to swallow the harsh reality check she had delivered a few minutes before.
Hill closed her concert with the songs ‘Killing Me Softly’ and ‘Ready Or Not’, which left the audience asking for more.
Earlier, rising star Bruno Major had performed at the festival.
The British singer and songwriter blends RnB and alternative sounds to produce a sound that has been described by Billboard as “blissful, soulful and romantic.”
Major has a huge following on YouTube — his song ‘Easily’ alone has nearly five million hits — and he was well received by the audience on Wednesday. On the sidelines of the festival was a ‘silent disco’, where people danced to music broadcast by a DJ to wireless headphones.