Something funny happened on Saturday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Lauryn Hill, well on her way to delivering a decidedly underwhelming show for a roughly two-thirds-capacity crowd, turned it around, sang herself past the infamous 10 p.m. curfew, and ended up delivering a performance that, despite a myriad of shortcomings, proved to be one heck of a ferocious and fun experience.
After hip-hop chameleon Murs opened up the evening with a more than serviceable set, the audience endured a waiting game of epic proportions. While a deejay, spinning a great mix of reggae, deeper dance-hall cuts, and even a splash Bell Biv DeVoe, went a long way to helping the crowd ride out the hour-plus wait for Ms. Hill, there was a definite sense of “What the fuck?” in the air.
However, Hill overcame the late start almost immediately by tearing into spirited, frenetic renditions of her hits “Everything Is Everything” and “Lost Ones.” Despite a few minor sound issues, Hill only got better as she soared aggressively through her set list, which included rearranged versions of hits from her Fugees days, her acclaimed Miseducation album, and a crowd-pleasing trio of Bob Marley covers. In fact, it was during “Could You Be Loved” that Hill broke the fabled Bowl rule of no music after 10. Then, with a visibly peeved collection of management glaring from side stage, defiantly gave the audience one more, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” before the house lights came up and all but kicked her off the stage. No doubt there was a price to pay, but it really was the only way to salvage what could have been a train wreck of a show.