Culturelicious Open Thread: Lauryn Hill and Fan Expectations In A Down Economy

We do the best we can with what we have. All those who aren’t happy, you’re always to go back and ask for a refund … I apologize for being late, but there’s a lot that goes on to get this out to you.
– Lauryn Hill, Dec. 28 performance in Brooklyn

By Arturo R. García

While not being race-centric per se, I did want to hear from the Lauryn Hill fans among us – especially if you went to the Dec. 28 show that started more than three hours late.

After some fans booed Hill when she finally took the stage – On The Red Carpet has video here – she said, “I spent my entire 20s sacrificing my life to give you love. So when I hear people complain, I don’t know what to tell you.”

But the question that’s been sticking in my mind since reading about that show is this: given that people went to see her in the wake of the snowstorm that hit New York over Christmas weekend, and the economy being what it is, when does fan expectation become entitlement? And when does showmanship cross over into self-indulgence?

Because rest assured, nobody’s saying Hill is alone in extending shows into after-hours territory. I’m sure we’ve all been to concerts that started way too late and went too short. My worst? Nelly: Did a 40-minute medley of a “set.” Weirdest? George Clinton: three-hour jam session by his band followed by a two-hour, eight-song jam led by Clinton himself.

To be fair to Hill, her New Year’s Day show in Manhattan, which, as Steven J. Horowitz at The Boombox wrote, was advertised with a more-plausible sounding 11:30 p.m. start time, went better – although not necessarily more quickly:

With fans packed from wall to wall, things were looking up when four of the former Fugee’s children — Selah, Joshua, John and Marley — suddenly appeared on the balcony to watch their mom in action.

But even they had to kill some time. After DJ Rampage warmed up the audience with cuts from Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg, Ms. Hill’s girthy backup band — consisting of three guitarists, three keyboardists, three backup singers, a DJ, a drummer and a bassist — assumed their positions at 12:30, with the woman of the evening finally emerging to a grateful crowd, treating them to a spicy two-hour performance of strictly classic material.

But … well, put it this way, if I coughed up a minimum of $95 to see somebody play the Blue Note tonight, and then found out the show was delayed because, say, their manicure didn’t dry, that would be enough to put me off investing in their shows again. Or is that asking for too much?