There were multiple roller-coaster rides at the Voodoo Fest in New Orleans on Saturday (Nov. 1), but none compared to the emotional ride that Lauryn Hill fans endured during the evening.
The singer was 45 minutes late to her performance — twice. First, for her original performance and then, after being forced off stage, four hours later on a smaller stage.
Hill began her original 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. set only 15 minutes before she was scheduled to end it. At 7:15 p.m. her microphone was cut, shutting down “Ready or Not” mid-song. The singer kept performing soundlessly as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was played over the loudspeakers.
Disappointed fans let out a chorus of boos as Hill walked off a darkened stage. Several people said Hill was one of their main reasons for attending day two of the festival, and many fans felt that festival management had disrespected the artist.
“Let her finish her song,” cried out a voice in the crowd. Other festival attendees said that the whole incident was her fault because she was late.
“Things happened. Lauryn Hill was late,” a festival representative told the audience after 30 Seconds to Mars’ performance, which followed Hill’s. The rep explained that he couldn’t let her tardiness impact other band’s playing times, and said she’d be doing a “lagniappe” — New Orleans code for “bonus” — at 10 p.m. on Flambeau, a smaller stage.
But come 10 p.m., there was no Hill in sight, just the band performing soundchecks and setting up the stage. The crowd was significantly smaller than before; some ardent Hill fans had left in frustration over her mid-song cut off, leaving the festival before finding out she was playing again. The majority of the remaining festival-goers were checking out Arctic Monkeys or Skrillex. As 45 minutes passed, a few people began leaving while others started chanting “Lauryn Hill” or occasionally booing.
When Hill did come out though — 15 minutes before Voodoo was meant to close — the crowd was full of energy and excitement. Her second performance was an improvement on the first, the singer seemed more focused on the crowd, rapidly rapping and bringing out her powerful vocals.
Hill never acknowledged her tardiness, in either instance, nor did she bring up being cut off. She referenced her previous performance when she told the audience, “We’re going to do this one again,” before singing “Everything is Everything” and “Ready or Not,” each for a second time that evening.
Toward the end of songs, Hill would motion to the band to stop playing so she could sing the lyrics stripped down, without any instrumental accompaniment. “Bang, Bang” was a crowd-pleaser, but she elicited the biggest reaction with her final song, “Doo-Wop (That Thing).”
“Thank you so much for coming back y’all,” she said, walking off the stage at 11:18 p.m. and effectively closing Voodoo day two.
As festival-goers left the park, several could be overheard enthusiastically complimenting Hill’s performance; the delays seemed completely forgiven. For Hill fans, doing it again was worth the wait.