Lauryn Hill’s Set on ‘Austin City Limits’ Infuriates Because It’s So Thrilling

Earlier this week when Lauryn Hill announced upcoming concert dates, social media was filled with wits clowning her for her legendary tardiness and erratic, uneven performances. She may well sell out some of the dates for the MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! Concert Series, which kicks off August 27th in Philly, but it’s clear that even longtime diehard fans are starting to finally tire of the hip-hop icon’s unpredictability when it comes to her stage antics – or when she’ll even show up. A collective shrug greeted the news of future concerts.

Lauryn Hill, courtesy Getty Images

Lauryn Hill, courtesy Getty Images

That’s why the preview clips from her upcoming appearance on long running concert series “Austin City Limits” is both thrilling and infuriating. Hill and her band are on-a-dime perfect as they turn in vibrant performances of  her solo hits (“Doo Wop”), Fugee hits (“Ready or Not”), and cult (and Kanye) favorite “Mystery of Iniquity,” richly fleshed out from its sparse acoustic accompaniment on Hill’s controversial Unplugged CD. When she appeared on MTV to perform unplugged back in 2001, word was that the songs were sketches for a forthcoming studio album that never materialized, so it’s a special treat for fans to her it performed by a full band.

US singer Lauryn Hill performs on stage during the 51st session of the Carthage international Festival in the Roman theatre in Carthage, a seaside suburb of the Tunisian Capital on July 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

For the Austin concert, which was filmed in November of last year, Hill’s voice is huskier and she misses a note here and a phrase there in her rapid-fire rap delivery, but she’s focused and present in ways she hasn’t always been as she’s toured the world the past few years. Though the hip-hop/R&B hybrid is old hat by now, Hill shows why she’s still the master of it. We see the spark and magnetism that set her apart in the Fugees, and made her pop stardom a foregone conclusion when she went solo, as she whips the Austin crowd into a frenzy. And watching and listening to her tear through the rap breakdown in “Mystery” makes you fiend for new material from her. Below are clips from the show, including the web-only performance of “Jammin’/Master Blaster.”

Top image courtesy Getty Images