Lauryn Hill Looms Large At Solo Show

Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter played her hits and one by Fugees in private show.

LONDON -- Lauryn Hill came here over the weekend with a band that sometimes ballooned to 18 musicians.

But the oversized entourage might as well have been stationed backstage. To her

fans at least, Hill stood larger than life and greater than her past.

"Who needs the Fugees?," asked Sarah Gaston, 30, a radio producer. "She's so much

better by herself."

The Fugees singer and rapper, whose The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill broke

sales records and is nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, begins her

first U.S. tour Feb. 18 in Detroit.

But she came to London first, for shows Friday night at Brixton Academy and Saturday

night at the Golders Green Hippodrome. She launched her live solo career with a string of shows in Japan in January.

Saturday's show, in front of an audience of contest winners, was taped by BBC radio for a Valentine's Day special.

Hill took the stage an hour late Saturday, following a DJ set of rap classics

including Grandmaster Flash's "The Message." But she quickly proved she can

transcend the legacy of the Fugees onstage, as she has on record.

Hill played a handful of songs from her album, including the forthcoming single

"Ex-Factor," posters for which had been plastered around the venue and the surrounding

area.

She opened with the single "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (RealAudio

excerpt), which got the audience dancing immediately. The band laid down a heavier

sound onstage than on the single version, without sacrificing the original's lush feel.

The collective laid down some heavy footprints, too, as the stage was crammed with a

male rapper, a trio of female backing singers, a bassist, a guitarist, two keyboard players,

two percussionists, two DJs and a horn section. That left Hill little room to maneuver.

But she made do with what little space she had.

Wearing a full-length wool coat, leather suit and huge woolly hat, she soon worked up a

sweat as she wailed.

"I wasn't too sure about that rapper," radio producer Chris Tyrer, 40, said. "She's such a

good singer, she doesn't need some idiot going 'One time, two time' over her music."

She closed the 35-minute set with a soulful rendition of

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"Killing Me Softly With His Song" (RealAudio excerpt), the Fugees'

breakthrough hit.

That was it for the evening, despite the audience baying for more even 20 minutes after

the musicans left the stage.

Hill had her two children in the building and had to attend to them before a

meet-and-greet session with the contest winners and VIPs.