October 20, 2023

Ms. Lauryn Hill & The Fugees played Barclays Center

Defying all odds and expectations, Ms. Lauryn Hill and The Fugees are indeed back and brought their reunion tour to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

In so many ways, The Fugees reunion still feels like a miracle. After years of constant ups and downs and maybe it could happen moments, the trio finally put their differences aside to reunite at Pier 17 in 2021 and the praise was sky high. Not only did the band really get back together, but they sounded better than anyone expected. Yet even then, the follow-up tour was cancelled and for a while it seemed like that reunion would turn into a once in a lifetime moment. Slowly things started to heat up. A surprise set at The Roots Picnic made the impossible seem possible once again and when a reunion tour featuring a set of Ms. Lauryn Hill paying tribute to her iconic, and lone, solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would be part of the night, things felt almost too good to be true. Yet here we are! The reunion tour has arrived, the band has showed up, and they're playing the hits like the '90s are still alive. Taking the stage at 9:40, Ms. Hill was relatively prompt (all things considered) and as she ascended to the stage with a massive band, she stood centerstage in all white with a giant bow affixed to her back and proceeded to lead the crowd through "Everything is Everything," setting the mood for what would follow: a night of the hits, remixed to her latest fantasy, while still feeling like an homage to the past. The beats and rhythms may have changed, but her message and words remained (mostly) the same. For the reputation she's amassed over the years, she put the haters to shame onstage at Barclays, spitting bars like the best of the them and not letting her weary, raspy voice get the best of her. She truly seemed to be happy to be on stage and delivering her masterpiece to her fans. "Lost Ones" was triumphant and "Ex-Factor" was delivered with poignancy and power, showcasing her shining talents and reminding everyone just how she gained her incredible reputation from the start. "To Zion" brought out the best in voice and once again saw her balance her rapping and singing like no one else, putting her in a league all her own and one she's been in for over twenty five years. Of course "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" was the joyous sing along you'd expect and "Tell Him" was the gorgeous, reserved statement piece that shined with promise, melting the crowd back into their seats before she closed out her set with "Doo Wop (That Thing)," getting the arena back on their feet for one more home run performance. Personally, I was hoping (and kind of expecting) to hear "Every Ghetto, Every City" since the show was billed as the celebration of the whole album, but that part aside, the fact that the show happened and was as flawless as it was, felt like a wonder and it was only the start of the night. Just before 11, Ms. Lauryn returned to the stage and with Pras and Wyclef in tow, the Fugees were on the stage for only the third time in the past fifteen years. Much like the first set, the group brought new flow and flavor to some of their tracks, but for those who had been waiting for over a decade, it didn't matter, the Fugees were here and playing the songs so many never expected to hear live again. When the trio were together in the center spotlight, they traded bars like it was the early '90s all over again, their free flowing rhymes and meters recalling their best and brightest moments. "How Many Mics" was a phenomenal highlight and a true sight to witness as they once again seemed to be having fun whilst knowing just how good they can be when they want to, something no one in the room will soon forget. As they trekked through the set, the band stuck mostly to their smash record The Score which the audience was in complete favor of, although Wyclef snuck in his solo track "Gone Till November," and throughout, Ms. Lauryn spoke with prolific prose, relishing in the fact that her band was in fact back together and how with their differences aside, the idea of a Black woman and two Haitian rappers rising to the top of the crop was still a flash of brilliance and absolute amazement. "No Woman, No Cry" was the peaceful hit everyone has come to expect and led perfectly into one of the biggest moment's of the night as Hill led the crowd through "Killing Me Softly" as the whole building joined her in a sweet, satisfying harmony before somehow taking things even higher with "Ready of Not" which was the absolute pinnacle of the night and for many in attendance, perhaps the highlight of the year. Ending well past midnight, it was clear that the band were still playing by their own rules and when left to take charge, they still have it in them to live up to the hype and deliver a show worthy of the anticipation and hope they've built up over decades. When they're on, there's nothing like watching them get down to business, find their groove, and explode on the microphone. We're lucky they've chosen to get back on stage together and even if this is it, it's the strongest closing note we could ask for and one that puts their legacy back into the spotlight it deserves.

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