Lauryn Hill Celebrates Iconic Album at the Shoreline in San Jose

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When I arrived at the Shoreline Amphitheater last night in Mountain View, the security guard had warned me. “It’s Lauryn Hill. You know she’s gonna be late.” And sure enough, he was right. The iconic rapper/singer with the endearing smile and ageless looks was supposed to go on at 9 p.m. but ended up taking the stage closer to 10 p.m.

The crowd that had grown restless by that point (people were literally pole dancing on the venue’s light stands) was quick to forgive by the time she whisked softly onto the stage in a colorfully patterned headdress coupled with a giant pink tutu because tonight was going to be something special. Tonight, everyone in attendance was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the singer’s opus, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

It was an emotional event.  So much so that at one point early in the show, Ms. Hill had tears in her eyes when she confessed to her adoring fans. “It’s been 20 years y’all. Can you believe it? 20 years!” Looking at how great Lauryn looked it is hard to believe that it’s been so long. It really goes to show the strength of this lady who’s had her shares of trials and tribulations throughout that time.

But all of that was forgotten from the moment she kicked off the show with the powerful rap anthem “Lost Ones” to the time in the set she sang the much softer “To Zion,” a song written about the sacrifices made for her son. From start to end it was impossible to not be moved by Hill’s performance.

Although her voice is different now than it once was, a little raspier maybe, it breathes the scars and experiences that have shaped her into who she is today. A strong and powerful woman capable of inspiring legions of fans around the world.

The often times misunderstood singer wasn’t shy with her politics last night either. During the entire show, projected behind her, was video footage of current events. Clips of police harassment, inner-city protests, and the funeral of Aliyah perfectly complimented her strong messaging. She’d accompany it with some words about coming together to make a change in the world. It’s a message that rang true and felt from the heart.

And so it comes as no surprise that the show was completely sold out last night. The subject of admiration that she’s been for so many for close to 20 years now, is still felt so strongly today. It’s the sincerest testament to what a truly incredible artist Lauryn Hill is. But more importantly, the important figure we so desperately need today.

Photos by Louis Raphael

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An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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