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Lauryn Hill battles unruly VIPs at Sundance

January 27, 2011

Lauryn Hill

Often called America’s best ever female rapper, Lauryn Hill got no respect from a group of self-important VIP’s at a concert on the sidelines of the Sundance Film Festival Wednesday night. So Hill, who is known for not mincing her words, asked her security to remove the people and their roped-off, Very Important Person section that was set-up just meters from the stage.

As she performed the latest concert on a current small tour — a comeback of sorts after a hiatus from the music scene — she had to contend with the VIPs, whoever they were, as they mostly ignored her set, often with their backs to the stage while swilling champagne and at times blocking the view of and distracting ticket-paying concertgoers.

For the record, Hill’s show was not affiliated with the festival itself, but was just one of many performances set up by party and corporate promoters that Sundance has long battled. For years, the sort of circus atmosphere created by the marketers has irked Sundance’s backers, including Robert Redford.

While there is little Sundance can do about private enterprise at work, there was plenty that Ms. Hill (as she apparently likes to be called) could do about the rowdy crew in the velvet-rope section. In fact, she asked her security “to move the crowd, you understand me?”. Bravely she carried on despite the strange set-up, playing new versions of her songs from the Grammy-winning “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and  finishing with the Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” “Killing Me Softly,” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)

We note that many other music events taking place outside the festival, such as  Cee-Lo Green performing at the Bing Bar, were tastefully done, albeit invitation only.

And in a struggling music industry where singers must find new ways to make money, many singers in recent years all over the country –  from Jewel to Rufus Wainwright — now perform private sponsored events to rude crowds who turn out for the sponsors, free booze and party.  (Another note: earlier in her career, Ms. Hill often complained about the corporate demands of the music industry and the compromises they placed on artistic integrity). But when a ticket-paying public and even performers on stage have to contend with roped off sections of rowdy VIPs who got in free, we wonder what is the future of live concerts?

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