Opening nights can be a tricky lot and it doesn’t help when one of the artists marches to the beat of their own drum (and timetable). No, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Nas’ “PowerNomics” Tour launch at Huntington Bank Pavilion At Northerly Island wasn’t the smoothest of shows, but once all the dust settled, there was no denying either’s artistic impact or ongoing relevance, despite not recording all that much anymore (if at all).
When the former singer of The Fugees finally did emerge to the hypnotic rhythms of “Everything Is Everything,” one of the several tracks from 1998’s nearly 20 times platinum project “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill,” she kept motioning to the sound engineers and the musicians to get the mix to her precise liking.
For starters, the intentions behind this co-headlining trek are admirable, starting with Hill’s statement “my interests have always centered around encouraging empowerment, and focusing on ways to help heal, repair, educate and promote enfranchisement to the disenfranchised…” Adds Nas: “’PowerNomics’ Tour is our way of being a part of the solution. We are here to lend a hand where it is needed and hopefully to inspire.”
And while the music did most of the talking, it conquered that mission more or less, starting with Nas, who speed through several cuts such as “Got Ur Self A…,” his Amy Winehouse collaboration “Cherry Wine” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”-sampled “It Ain’t Hard To Tell.” But no sooner than his brand of lyrically rich East Coast hip-hop picked up steam, he left the stage and was followed by a lengthy segment including a DJ and an instrumental jam by Hill’s band that lasted so long, the video loop featuring images representing various aspects of society and culture repeated three times.
When the former singer of The Fugees finally did emerge to the hypnotic rhythms of “Everything Is Everything,” one of the several tracks from 1998’s nearly 20 times platinum project “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill,” she kept motioning to the sound engineers and the musicians to get the mix to her precise liking. Granted, the bass in particular was overpowering, but even when the dings were being buffed out, she continued motioning throughout “Ex-Factor,” “Final Hour” and “Lost Ones.”
Luckily the audience’s mood turned so euphoric by the time Hill made it to her past group’s standouts “How Many Mics,” “Zealots,” “Fu-Gee-La” and “Ready Or Not” (many accompanied by reggae-flavored opener Chronixx), some of that tension eased. By her signature cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” the train finally appeared to be officially on track, though the clever interpreter then took a break for Nas to get a second round.
Considering the brevity of his earlier set, it was a welcome decision (albeit with a choppy transition) that allowed him to unload even bigger hits than before (“One Mic,” “Made You Look”), though at one point, he looked unsure of what to drop next and simply shouted “where’s the queen?” Hill made her way back out to collaborate on “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That),” which could’ve been phenomenal, but was carried mainly by Nas since Hill settled right back into her routine of sending visual commands to the sound booth.
Nonetheless, few seemed to mind and accepted the situation at face value, since after all, this sort of behavior was nothing new for Hill. Thankfully she eased up again during the solo grand finale “Doo Wop (That Thing),” which is creeping up on its twentieth anniversary, but managed to come across just as fresh and empowering as the first time around and helped fans forget much of the laborious fine-tuning it took to get there.
Upcoming concert highlights at Huntington Bank Pavilion At Northerly Island include Sublime With Rome & The Offspring (Sept. 8); Young The Giant (Sept. 9); Sturgill Simpson (Sept. 22) and Umphrey’s McGee (Sept. 23). For additional details, visit LiveNation.com.