Dressed in a long, yellow floral skirt, sheer black tights and broad-shouldered white blouse, Ms. Hill was adorned like a pioneer woman or Disney princess, with a bit of Flamenco thrown in. Things got lively after Cory “DJ Rampage Global” Hinks opened, making sure that everyone was on their feet and grooving, informing the crowd that we weren’t at a church service and we definitely weren’t at a political convention. Ms. Hill took the stage only after Hinks transformed the stiff, awkward crowd into a loose musical congregation.
Ms. Hill’s performance featured a variety of musical styles. During the first half, she sat by candlelight as she and her impressive lead guitarist, Jordan Peters, played rock jams. During the second half, R&B crescendoed into rap and Ms. Hill enthusiastically delivered classic songs, full of multiple personae, after cajoling the studio’s lighting team into creating more ambience by dimming the lights (even though more light would be ideal for television). Ms. Hill persuaded the team by telling them she loved them and singing bits of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low.”
Originally showcasing only Texas music, Austin City Limits expanded to showcase diverse talents, like Ms. Hill, and it helped Austin to become known as The Live Music Capital of the World. The annual ACL Music Festival grew out of the television show, and the festival now brings world-renowned musical artists to perform at Zilker Parker for about 450,000 people during two weekends each September.
With the slogan “Great Music. No Limits” and audiences limited to about 800, Austin City Limits features artists with big followings in a more intimate setting. The show was originally filmed in one of two buildings that housed the University of Texas at Austin College of Communications, and since 2011 has been filmed in the Moody Theater at Block 21, the 300-million-dollar mixed used development on Second Street that houses the W Austin Hotel and its Trace restaurant.
After co-forming the hip-hop band the Fugees, Ms. Hill broke onto the world scene as an individual in 1998 with the release of her solo album, for which she is best known, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Saturday’s performance featured songs from the album, including “Final Hour” and a jazzy rendition of “Lost Ones.”
In 1999, Ms. Hill became the first woman to be nominated for 10 Grammy Awards in a single year. In the years that followed, she’s become known for her life, as much as for her professional work as a singer, producer, and actress. She’s produced only one studio-recorded album and reportedly turned down acting parts in Charlie’s Angels, The Bourne Identity, The Mexican and The Matrix series. She’s reared six children, criticized social institutions, spoken out against ‘isms (racism, sexism, and ageism) and performed only when it’s made sense to her, rejecting industry standards of when to make music and star in films. Hailing from South Orange, New Jersey, Ms. Hill is symbolic of the experience of American women at the turn of the century.
In March, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill entered the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and the oldest cultural institution in the U.S.
Ms. Hill is scheduled to perform in Austin again tonight, Sunday, Nov. 8, at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores.