Concert Review: Adele’s 21 Tour @ The Riviera 2011

“I usually wear black, but look!” the Welsh goddess exclaims. Pointing to a tiny red flower on her blouse, Adele, tickled, shouts “I wore color for you”.

I expected something like this: black blouse, standing mic, Adele perched like the pop divas she’s compared to, all the singles off the new album, and an hour or so of belted love ballads. So when Adele, after kicking off her set with the delicate “Hometown Glory” started her show off stage – I was surprised.

Actually, I was surprised by a lot of things.

I expected to be wowed. Adele’s one-in-a-million voice that fearlessly exposes every scar, broken bone and bruise was bound to impress and I set the bar high. But Adele does something braver than what I imagined.

She starts her set by doing what she does best – singing her heart out under the spotlight, sitting gracefully next to the piano, lit in blue. Suddenly, the black curtain behind her is dropped the floor. To our surprise, the stage is filled with lampshades, warm tones, a full band and two back up singers. Adele transformed The Riviera from blues bar to living room off the Bayou in milli-seconds. Though I’m a city girl, I feel at home in Adele’s space.

She sings mostly tracks off her new hit album 21 (though Adele is now 23) as expected. But what I hadn’t prepared for was the astonishing amount of emotional stamina that material requires. “Someone Like You” a hit single about having the guts to go back to an old lover and confess that you still love them to find that they are married and happy, is performed seconds after “Take It All” a song the singer confesses she “wrote write after the 19 tour. I sat in the studio and wrote this. I had no idea I felt that way until I wrote those words. My boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks later”.

It is easy, especially with an artist like Adele, to forget that music is a business. We get so wrapped up in how intimate the sound is, we lose track of the machine behind it. Poor Adele must be exhausted night after night singing a set almost entirely made up of love ballads, which she has written, from personal experience, to thousands of people. What is astonishing is she does it with grace and genuity.

In order to stay true to herself, Adele keeps herself in check. “One and Only”, one of the biggest hits off of her sophomore album, requires Adele to boldly challenge her love interest to love her back. Live, Adele changes the lyrics to “you’re the only one that I wanted” instead of “want” (as the song is recorded). Adele continues to prove herself as committed to being sincere – the person she imagines herself singing this to is clearly no longer her focus, but that doesn’t render the song unviable. With just a slight change to the lyric, Adele continues to be honest, and therefore the song comes out of her honestly.

As anticipated, the crowd knew every lyric. But unlike a Spears or Gaga concert where fans scream the lyrics like they’re chanting for their beloved mascot, Adele’s following matches her commitment and heart, closing their eyes and crying. Adele delivers a hyper-personal performance and commands the stage like she’s been in the business for years.  It is because she gives so much of herself to her audience, they willingly return the favor.

The resulting belt-fest is less group therapy and more magical, though definitely leans toward a love-sucks-bonfire. The emotional outpour gets overwhelming.

But like any smart entertainer she knows her audience. Adele pulls this off and entertains everyone in her audience (including Rahm Emanuel) because she knows we need a second to catch our breath. Before or after singing each song, Adele provides context, anecdotes, and humor. “Woof I’m sweating! She laughs. I wasn’t doin’ any Beyonce moves or anything was I?” she asks her bass player. We need to hear her drop f-bombs, talk about her addiction to cigarettes, and how she hated her best friend Laura when she first met her in order to really appreciate how human she is. We cling to this humanity and it’s exactly what packs her concerts.

Continuing to break my expectations without disappointing, Adele performs covers in her set of “To Make You Feel My Love” (which she recorded on her first album) and “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by The Steel Drivers (the folk band previously opening on her tour). Usually a new artist at their peak depends on sticking to their own material. Adele sings what she wants to sing. She’s not afraid to sing songs simply because she likes them. Again, showing us that she’s human; she’s not a machine asking us to buy more singles, she’s a heartfelt singer who loves music and will sing what she likes.

Adele’s humanity and complete lack of bullshit that makes her so magnetic to people of all demographics. We see ourselves in Adele – completely love struck, flirty, sexy, celebratory, heartbroken, devastated and lost all at the same time. With every beat from her 6-piece band, and soulful voice comes a pluck on our heartstrings. To say she’s a diva would be to fit her voice but not her misinterpret her attitude. To call her a starlet seems to diminish her power. Goddess for now – as she stuns her audience, commands the stage with grace, shatters expectations and forces you to give yourself back to her.

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Music News: Jarod Ripley’s Genius

There’s a fire starting in the hearts and iPods of people everywhere. At 22 years-old, Welsh singer ADELE has proven herself a masterful performer and songwriter. Ballads like “Someone Like You” (where ADELE finds that her ex-lover has married and tells him that for her “it isn’t over”) require ADELE to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart off the floor, take the fragments in her hands, and hold them out and beg us to shatter them once more. She does what many of us find daunting; ADELE takes the most utterly fragile human experiences and emotions and funnels them through a soul-powered, superhuman voice, giving them strength, power and most important, a voice.  To our ears, this woman is truly fearless.

So what happens when you mash-up one of the most brilliant and mature artists, nothing less than a scholar of the heart’s beats and breaks with Pop-Princess-Gone-Tabloid-Queen Britney Spears? 117,165 views on YouTube, that’s what.

Jarod Ripley, an editor/mash-up artist who until now has received limited attention on his website and YouTube pages, has created one of the most brilliant mash-ups to date. Ripley’s past endeavors include mixing techno band Calvin Harris with the rock’n’roll of The White Stripes, and R&B star Kat Graham with Sia’s 80s rock-inspired “Clap Your Hands”. Nothing comes close to matching the popularity of his sex-kitten/soul-ballad gumbo “Rolling ‘Till the World Ends”.

At face value, Ripley takes ADELE’s heartbreak single and turns it into a club-ready dance track. But there’s more to it. Perhaps unknowingly, Ripley’s editing exposes the interdependency between the sex-kitten, paparazzi-followed Spears and quiet life, indie-songwriter ADELE.

Spears’ “Dancing ‘Til The World Ends” has yet to make it in the top 10 on the Billboard Top 100, while ADELE’s “Rolling in the Deep” has made it to number 2 (only one slot behind Katy Perry’s E.T.). In order to be the pop-master she is, Spears depends on the existence of artists like ADELE. Spears packs thousands of seats at her concerts by selling her body, sweat and half-naked back up dancers and we buy the tickets gladly. She’s all spectacle – everything a legendary pop icon should be. But there’s no room in the pop cannon for the kind of adult fragility ADELE fearlessly owns.

After watching ADELE walk the line between soft tender adjectives and booming, gospel-esque emotion, listeners are confronted with the challenge of which pop icon to stand behind. Ripley’s answer? Both.

Spears needs the number two Billboard single to boost her into the top 10, ADELE needs the spectacle and teen-bop-fans that Spears’ has claimed since 1997. While both women can stand on their own, each of their most recent singles depends on the other to give their work context.

Perhaps all that inspired to Ripley was his love for ADELE’s lyrics and his need to shake his booty, but what results is a masterful and important combination of pop chart’s extremes.

Music News: Lollapalooza Lineup

It starts with a dictionary definition: “a wonderful thing or person or a swirly lollipop”. Cut to the director NAME discussing his original impulse to create this festival – to bring what people so infamously experienced at Woodstock, to an urban environment. The screen is suddenly filled with still images from concerts, of bands, promotions, and fans. This footage, combined with a self-proclaimed connection to Woodstock fool us into believing that Lollapalooza is not just a concert, but a political and social event.

Looking at the lineup for this year’s festival, Lollapalooza’s 20th Anniversary, I am, quite frankly, confused. Are Eminem and Coldplay truly the most politically important music artists Lolla could find?

There’s no doubt that when the Michigan-born rapper first hit the billboard his music elicited political and social debate about homophobia and abuse – but now? “Love the Way You Lie”, a single off Eminem’s newest album Recovery, exploded on the charts because it was such a surprise for the rapper; Rihanna’s beautifully yearning hook that rides the flow of the beat makes the track nothing short of a modern love ballad. Perhaps if Lollapalooza had hosted “The Real Slim Shady”, I’d be more politically satisfied.

With this lineup (http://lineup.lollapalooza.com/), Lollapalooza deviates from their original goal to be a modern, urban Woodstock. The festival is clearly more interested in ticket sales than creating a communal experience. The key to success? Inviting divisive artists who bring the festival their mass fan base for just one day.

Last year we had Gaga. I stood in Grant Park surrounded by “monsters” and immediately felt the communal vibe established throughout the day drained out of me. Virtually thousands of people gathered in the park to gawk at Gaga and only Gaga, buying a day pass and ignoring the rest of the music playing since 11am.

But the last time I checked, Gaga tours on her own. And so does every other top-chart artist. So why not buy a ticket for that? Why the music festival? Community.

There is nothing quite like sweating for three days at Indio, California’s Coachella Music Festival unshowered, smelly, sunburnt and thirsty. The fans are there not just for the music, but for the three-day camp-a-thon where we make new friends, disagree about lyrics and the meaning of life, spend too much money on over-priced Gatorade and dance until 3 am.

By hosting Eminem, Coldplay and Muse as a package of headliners, Lollapalooza solidifies the fears Gaga instilled in me last year: Lolla has abandoned their original promise to be a true festival.

In fact, the lineup implies not only a deviation from “festival” but a new interest in developing “Perry’s”, Lolla’s DJ stage. This year Perry’s amps and speakers will pulse with countless big names: Pretty Lights, Kid Cudi, Modeselektor, Girl Talk, Super Mash Bros, and Busy P (to name a few). The dance music scene is taking over college campuses and bars everywhere, and so it makes sense for Perry Farrell (the director/creator of Lollapalooza) to have his sights set on making Perry’s the place to be (once again, to boost his sales, rather than his socio-political stance).

But to say the artists on this year’s lineup aren’t worthy of being heard would be wrong; Muse, My Morning Jacket, Cold War Kids, Nas, Manchester Orchestra and Delta Spirit certainly all have something to say about the world either lyrically or aurally. However, when put together in one festival one thing becomes clear: Lollapalooza is more invested in selling day passes and targeting individual music demographics than creating a collective music experience that when assembled in one lineup makes for a weekend of political and social import.

So Perry, as a true and devoted music fan I have to tell you that you’ve sold out. And that’s ok. You’re certainly providing fans a way to see their favorite artists in the beautiful Grant Park; and that’s a valid reason for Lolla to continue to happen. I had a good time at Lolla last year, eating Chi-dogs, bouncing beach balls over my head with Matt & Kim, and watching Foxy Shazaam redefine spectacle in a short forty-minute set. So long as you acknowledge that Lolla is redefining itself, deviating from its history and tradition.

When I have my choice of festivals this year, from Pitchfork to Bonarrroo, Lollapalooza won’t be mine.

Artist Profile: The Adam and Alex Trio

“No dude. It was that first time we were smoking in Chris’ room together” Adam insists. “Wrong. I saw you play at open mic in the Student Center and we started jamming with that one kid”. Afraid of sounding arrogant, Alex hesitates. But after reading the similar, unsaid thought on Adam’s face, he says, laughing “That kid was terrible.”

Laughing, yet stubborn in their ways, the boys argue over how they first made music together like old men around a poker table. Both of them work hard at maintaining a polished, smooth, guy-next-door appearance. Alex incessantly fingers the brown picnic table, chipping away at its paint. Adam’s silent decision to keep his sunglasses on proves that these laid-back boys are more nervous than they’d like their listeners to believe.

When performing, the flannel wearing, guitar strumming, soul singing duo casually transform into America’s favorite heartthrobs – strumming, shouting, crooning about everything from the girls they love to the bobbleheads on their dashboard. They nonchalantly harmonize, creating soundtracks to our summer love affairs, anthems to underscore our whiskey drinking.

“Playing for the Taste last year, man, that was my favorite thing we’ve done. And it was funny ‘cuz these like teenage girls would come up to us and we’d play ‘The Girl I Love’ and they’d just eat that shit up” Adam proudly says. “Then these like 40-year-old dudes would walk by and we’d break out some Beatles covers. Uhh!” Adam orgasmically remembers.

The key to the Trio’s enveloping charm is their seemingly effortless ability to change genres on a dime. These 21-year-old boys from Texas and Kentucky are masters. Unlike other college-campus bands, Adam and Alex are self-aware. They own their aesthetic and play (no pun intended) to their strengths. The boys have their finger on the audience pulse; they know when (and how) to rock out, to softly sing their love songs like they’re whispering in your ear, and they stroke their guitars’ deeper tones, crying out for empathy right when they have us in the palm of their hands.

As is typical, the boys stand in front of a half-packed US Beer Company clad in unbuttoned button-downs, skinny blue jeans clinging to their thighs, mismatched argyle socks and boat shoes. Take one look at these boys – instinctually you’ll want to hug them, slap your knees with spoons and clap to whatever down-home rhyme they spout.  Fan favorites like “Freewheeling Time” further force these boys into our all-American-all-star vault. But both boys take frequent cigarette breaks between songs.

They cling to the sparked tobacco between their fingers, only sometimes letting it dangle dangerously on their bottom lips, bobbing as they talk. While a cig might be a cliché prop to highlight, it’s an important one for the Trio. By smoking, and by making a pageant, a specific point to go out and smoke during their sets, the boys are choosing to negate any stereotypically positive-role-model-all-American image. They fight their own lyrics, their soft, cuddly metaphors about love, sunshine and hanging out with friends by trying on “tough-guy”. We buy it for a milli-second and laugh.

The Trio means to portray themselves as the leather jacket-wearing bad-asses your mom assumes you shouldn’t be going around with. But inevitably their hearts shine through. They jump off-stage after a few songs and talk to whoever’s around. Adam puts his arm around me and we quietly mumble about theatre. He encourages me to take the stage like the older brother I never had. Alex, more naturally introverted than boisterous Adam, still makes the rounds but favors sitting at the bar and watching the audience he’s gathered (he MC’s US Beer’s Open Mic nights).

These slightly-tipsy indie-folkers calm enough to sip their beer or jack and coke in between songs, scratching their heads and clearing their throats – they’ve got all the time in the world. We expect them to belt out something homey, a cover perhaps, an old single off our dad’s favorite record, but instead, with complete sincerity and commitment, the boys spit out a ’99 throwback – “I Try” by Macy Gray.

“In on the Joke. That’s good” Adam chuckles. Both Adam and Alex are nostalgically attached to their quirky band name The Adam and Alex Trio. The irony suits them. At least for now.

“I’d want to keep playing our stuff as The Trio, but like open for Danger Pony (a full band the boys have put together with other Theatre School students and alums). Then (the audience) would be really into the acoustic stuff and all of a sudden we’d bust out Danger Pony. Full band sound, with Jaeger on the drums. They’d be shocked” Alex plots.

The Adam and Alex Trio sustains steady popularity amongst their DePaul listeners, parents and general social network and showcase. The duo, almost entirely acoustic sound allows them to demonstrate tremendous stage-presence, musicianship, and charm. But how long can the Trio continue to generate new and original material (what they call “ol’ timey music”) based on inspiration from “fake fireplaces and painting on doors”?

Adam, still hiding behind his sunglasses often gestures when he speaks, sometimes pats me on the back, throwing his hand toward Alex, trying to keep our attention. Alex, the more physically rustic, stubble-bearded, smirk-prone Texan stares into space while he talks. There’s something drifting in the air besides budding allergies and cigarette smoke.

While both boys agree that they love their sound and will always continue to enjoy playing together no matter their personal/social relationship, they know it needs to grow. “If someone asked us to make a record right now, of course we’d say yes” Adam shrugs. But Danger Pony, a “more full sound”, would give them more runway, more of a potential career and perhaps a more original contribution to American music.

The beauty of the Trio is that they seem completely original while harping on traditions of summer cookout music we’ve all heard before. They wear argyle socks and leather jackets. They bring a southern sound to small bars in a huge city. They smoke cigarettes and cuss like sailors after singing songs about how a special someone holds their hand. There are only two members in their “Trio”.

Built out of contradiction and irony, The Adam and Alex Trio are something special but perhaps a dying brand for the undeniably stellar musicians and young men. There’s only up from here as these immensely gifted boys grow into their loafers, graduate, and face a very bright future. Luckily for me their Trio EP will still be one click away when I need theme music for long car rides, sticky summer walks, or Sunday mornings with my sweetie.

Theatre Review: Black Watch at the Broadway Armory

Bright blue and white lights spin around the Broadway Armory, illuminating faces in the crowd. We’re forewarned in the program to expect explosion, strobe and strong language; a cheerful but direct pre-show announcement tells us to identify the exits (each equipped with a medic) in case of emergency. Hence, I start the experience expecting a Scottish rock concert.

With a loud burst of pre-show bagpipe and swelling sound effect, the show begins. Ten male actors spend that next hour and fifty minutes (without a break) going to war, fighting both in it and against it. We bounce between post-war interviews in a pool hall into actual combat itself. Unlike the Iraq desert, a setting usually characterized by sand, sky and sunlight is presented with colorful blues and purples, constantly reminding us that we’re not watching an attempt to perfectly re-enact war but an attempt to imagine it. Explosions are so amplified they rattle my ribcage. In this world, regimental pageantry is free to break from strict march formations and often evolves into highly stylized, yet specific choreography. Simply, it delivers the spectacle.

But to define “The Black Watch” as pure entertainment, a visual and aural feast, would be a crime. What The National Theatre of Scotland brings in sensory spectacle, it delivers ten times as much in emotional connection and political importance.

“The Black Watch” does something no American theatre company can; put the Iraq war, one of the most divisive events and issues in America under a microscope, fearlessly illuminating and questioning what it means and how individuals and entire countries fit into it. Their non-American nationality is not the only thing that allows them to successfully carry out their message; they way in which the story is told is essential to its success.

If I wanted to increase my knowledge about war, I’d read the news or Band of Brothers. “The Black Watch” is brilliantly constructed like a collage. At times, we step back and get a general overview – the scenes all put together evoke large and philosophical questions about honor in the modern world and what it means to win or lose a war.  When experiencing it however, we see each photograph, each layer; we hear each individual voice of the regiment begging for answers to specific questions about male identity, the negative implications about joining the military, and what we fight for on every level (from the right to enjoy pornography to a right for control).

In a time where the world is turning itself inside out from tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wars this piece could not have more an important moral echo for Americans. By bringing this essential piece of art and political discourse to the Chicago community Chicago Shakespeare Theatre proves itself an astute part of a global dialogue – that it’s fingers are on the pulse of what is immediately important.

The National Theatre of Scotland achieves what Chicago artists seem to believe is impossible; unearthing personal, global and philosophical questions without getting in my face, sweating spitting and crying ten feet in front of me. Within the grand scale of the Broadway Armory, packed with explosions, choreography, concert-lighting and men in uniform, “The Black Watch” manages to balance the hyper-sensory (within an intensely masculine world) with entertainment and spectacle. The National Theatre of Scotland shows us that war is not a game to be won or lost but a real, violent, and ultimately vulnerable thing to engage. The Scots demonstrate an obvious mastery of the art to be envied and emulated by Chicago theatre.

Perhaps I mistook the spinning lights and moving flags that welcomed me into the Armory for pure glitz when really it all comes back to the heartbeat of the piece. The lights are searching; scanning the audience, the community, America for it means to be a soldier, an artist, a man, and a community.

Concert Review: Lauryn Hill at the Aragon Ballroom

“So how long you wanna bet it’s gonna take her to come out? Three hours?” Julie, a 24 year-old concert lover, asks her friend. They laugh.

Lauryn Hill, the infamous ex-Fugee, multi-platinum solo-artist, singer/rapper has been having a tough time showing up to her comeback tour.

According to Perez Hilton, Lauryn Hill arrived 3 hours late to her shows in Atlanta and Brooklyn earlier this year. Sure, we’ve all been late to a thing or two. But it’s pretty ballsy of Lauryn to make it a habit (especially on her comeback tour).

Lauryn hasn’t recorded a new album since her five-time-Grammy award-winningMiseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. Her newest material is now 10 years old, an acoustic set recorded for MTV Unplugged in 2001.  Though she reunited with The Fugees in fall of ‘04 to play “Killing Me Softly” for Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, we haven’t truly heard from Lauryn in 12 years.

Despite reports of chronic tardiness, Chicago fans flock to the Aragon Ballroom for the honor of witnessing this multi-platinum artist’s long-overdue comeback. Looking at the crowd, the energy is infectious. People are jittery and excited; fans prepare themselves to be stunned. After all, Lauryn’s first tour since 1999 is bound to be nothing short of astonishing.

Hill made it a point to be punctual this time but her performance left bleeding-heart fans nothing short of devastated.

First off, the tickets list the bill as Lauryn and Lauryn only. So when Mos Def comes on stage, the crowd is half-thrilled and half-disappointed. Mos Def (the rapper-gone-actor known for singles like “Close Edge” and movies like The Italian Job) is one hell of a star-studded surprise. Hip-hop heads are delighted to see him play the unexpected opening set, but after 7 songs their interest fades. When will the person they paid to see, the woman they’ve waited for for over a decade, Ms. Lauryn Hill, grace them with her presence?

After a quick change over, her DJ comes out and declares, “I’m just here to warm you up”. He plays for upwards of 30 minutes. The crowd grows sweaty, thirsty and frustrated. Though he sets the appropriate mood by playing 90s hip-hop hits like Biggie’s “Hypnotize” and Dr. Dre’s “Next Episode”, it’s not enough to feed the audience’s hunger. Reluctant to outright boo their beloved Lauryn, fans either chant her name, begging for her to start her set, stand impatiently and text, or take the time to use the restroom and grab another beer.

Slowly her band members enter to a now exhausted audience and lack-luster applause, casually slinging on their guitars and basses like it’s a chore. They look tired. 1 hour after Mos Def’s opening act and 2 hours after the listed-start time, Lauryn Hill finally walks on stage.

Nobody screams; nobody claps because, nobody can actually see her (even from the front row).

When you pay $75 for a Grammy-award winner’s tour, you figure you’ll at least be able to actually see them. Lauryn walks on in pure silhouette, which would be beautiful if it had symbolic resonance, but the lights remain dim on the used-to-be-star for her entire set.

Lauryn is backlit by elaborate strobes and powerful blues that circle themselves through the audience like search lights. After a song or two, fans begin to cover their eyes, look away and in some cases walk out because they cannot physically withstand her blinding lights. Clearly Lauryn doesn’t want to be seen.

From the front row you squint to see her, thirsty for just one detailed glimpse at the woman returned from self-exile. She looks like a bizarre cross between Annie Hall and an African Goddess: her wrists covered in gold bracelets, hoop earrings dangling from her ears, head and hair squished into a black bowler’s hat, sweating in a colorful knit vest.

Waving her arms like a mad-conductor, she comes across as pushy. For the next hour of a set she commands her band like a dictator, forcing them to play faster and tighter. Rather than focus on the singing, Lauryn is preoccupied with the perfection, speed and technique within the overall sound, which frankly doesn’t matter as much as the clarity of her vocals.

“Can you hear me?” she yells into the mic. “NO!” Julie screams from the front row, the entire audience yelling in agreement. Not only were fans like Julie straining to see, they couldn’t hear her either.

While some concertgoers blame the Aragon staff, the same complaints have been traveling with Lauryn on tour. Google search her and you’ll find countless articles on the diva’s lack of sound checks and remixing of her famous tracks.

And while one of the most essential elements of hip-hop is remixing, taking something old and putting a twist on it, making it relevant, paying homage while completely rearranging something, Lauryn does this to such an extreme, the songs she’s “sampling” or “remixing” are completely unrecognizable. Enraged and confused, Julie throws her hands up saying, “What is this? I can’t sing along to this.”

About a minute into each track, those of us still invested in deciphering Lauryn’s funk-flaired new sound, the original songs were detectable. But the set was bizarre. While Lauryn expectedly and appropriately kicked it off with the gritty, truth-spitting, complex “Lost Ones”, and astutely included her biggest singles “Doo Whop” and Fugees’ “Ready or Not”, particularly soulful and meaningful tracks were missing. Twelve years later, Lauryn’s raps are still tight, twisted and complicated as they tickle our ear drums, but we miss her simplicity. What happened to the gospel-spreading, stool-perching, soul-belting solo act that won our hearts?

Lauryn spends a full quarter of her set paying homage to her baby daddy’s (Rohan Marley) father, Bob Marley. Not that Mr. Marley doesn’t deserve due credit, but with all due respect, Chicago fans came to hear Miseducation, not “Buffalo Soldier”. Without any new material, not even a single, Lauryn can’t afford to be playing more than one cover per set and she plays three.

To pump us up, she should be starting with funky and joyful anthems like “Every Ghetto, Every City” which sets the comeback tone we assume she’s trying to put out. This single tracks Lauryn’s journey to stardom and looks back on the environments and events that made her who she is. What a stellar way to say “I’m back. Here’s who I am.”

We miss the human, fragile Lauryn, the young woman who hopes and dreams and who cares enough to criticize. Her absolutely stunning track “To Zion” where Lauryn describes her decision to leave the industry for the birth of her first son Zion, and how joyful it feels to be pregnant, would be a perfect fit for a comeback tour. It shows us that the woman we haven’t seen in years is still alive in there somewhere. Not to mention, she’s pregnant again.

And so if she’s pregnant, why is she coming back now? Lauryn’s pregnant belly is hard to ignore. And yet she makes no mention of it. In fact, unlike most contemporary entertainers, she resists giving anecdotes or talking to her audience between tracks.

So her audience nearly runs out of the Aragon, sweaty, tired, and $75 lighter. And for what? The least Lauryn could have done is sell merchandise. Perhaps her audience is angry enough already; they don’t need a t-shirt to remind them of the worst $75 they’ve spent. But if Hill’s plan is to make money, where are the tote bags, t-shirts, and posters?

Clearly, Lauryn’s got a lot to learn if she seriously plans on returning to the spotlight. First, showing up on time is a good start. Going to a concert you can’t hear is like going to the Aurora Borealis blind. If you want to make a comeback re-introduce yourself by reminding us of why we love you. Play songs we know and love in a way that we can appreciate them. Wait to tour until you’ve had your baby. This way you can dedicate yourself to a return and stick around.

When you show up 3 hours late in Brooklyn, don’t greet your fans with, “I personally know I’m worth the wait”, because sadly, you’re not. We don’t know why you’re coming back to us if you’re not visible or audible. So ready or not, here we come you can’t hide (again), we’re gonna find you and ask for our money back.