Lauryn Hill performing at the Brixton Academy in London Saturday. Photograph: Rex
Lauryn Hill's return to Britain for the first of five UK shows proved to be a disaster on Saturday night. The former Fugees singer's show at the Brixton Academy attracted such ire that at one point, despite the venue's capacity being only 4,900, it was trending on Twitter.
The trouble began before Hill had even taken to the stage, with complaints about the warm-up DJ. That Hill kept the crowd waiting, arriving on stage 90 minutes after the advertised starting time, hardly helped matters. Then, when she did begin, many in the crowd were horrified by massively rearranged versions of songs from her only solo album to date, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Not only were their complaints about the manner in which the songs were performed, but also about the sound at the Academy, which was reportedly very loud and lacking clarity. Some fans booed Hill, and others left early. Suggestions that she was booed offstage appear to be incorrect: though booed, she was leaving the stage temporarily.
Scores of Tweets catalogued the unhappiness of large parts of the crowd about the performamce.
Hill's approach to live performance shouldn't have come as a surprise, however. Her attitude to timekeeping, like Axl Rose's, has long been lax. And she has been performing her songs in a radically reinvented way for some years. "Throughout, the restless Hill bends her catalogue into new shapes," wrote the Guardian's Alex Macpherson of her last London show, in 2012, "at times abandoning song structure entirely in favour of ad-libbed tangents, elongated vowels and radically altered crunching guitar arrangements - making for an experience that, commendably, is the exact opposite of a mere nostalgic singalong.