Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Fun Fun Fun Fest set was almost identical to her ‘Austin City Limits’ taping on Saturday night, with two important differences. First, she hit the stage at 8:27 p.m., only 12 minutes after start time and with ample time to play the full 90 minutes she was booked for before the 10 p.m. park curfew. Second, she played a breath-taking, true to the original, version of “Everything is Everything” right before closing with show stopper “Doo Wop.”
The song was one of over 30 on a set list circulated before the Saturday taping that clearly carried over to the festival performance. “Let’s play a little of this one,” Ms. Hill said to her band before they launched into it.
Maybe it was a whim, but it was the perfect selection.
“Everything is everything/What is meant to be will be/After winter, must come spring/Change it comes eventually,” she sang boldly with all her heart. With Austin’s skyline shimmering in the background, a field full of fans lifted their voices to join her and as they did, those words captured the beautiful serendipity of the moment.
Hill was tapped to close the fest less than two weeks ago when headliner D’Angelo suddenly cancelled. Her performance turned out to be one of the fest’s happiest accidents, but it was never a sure shot.
“I’d be lying if I said this was my most confident booking ever,” festival founder Graham Williams said after the show. Williams was fully aware of Hill’s inconsistent track record and her history of punctuality problems. But risk-taking is a definitive quality of Fun Fun Fun Fest, something that sets it apart from “many of the other cookie cutter fests.”
“We love Lauryn Hill and thought it was the right move,” he said. “We were right…she destroyed. Maybe the best set of the fest and one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.”
As with Saturday night’s performance, there were a few awkward and musically challenging moments, mostly during “the couch section” at the beginning of the show. But Lauryn Hill the astounding singer, the lightning-tongued rapper, the band-leading maestro and the incredible artist reveling in her reinvigorated vision showed up with radiant energy to take the fest out on a triumphant note.
“I don’t know if this is her comeback moment or not,” Williams said, “but whatever footing she was looking for before, she found it and we were proud to have her on our stage for our ten year anniversary.”