It was mid-April when I received the text from my wife: "Lauryn Hill is coming!" she said. "Can we go?"
She's a big Lauryn Hill fan, you see, and 1998's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is on heavy rotation in our household. It's one of her favorite records.
We had a bit of traveling planned during the month of September, but I checked our calendar and the stars aligned perfectly. We would be arriving back in town the week of Hill's performance. So we made plans and stuck to them, even when we heard about the other amazing shows happening in the Bayou City that very night.
My wife and I discussed the show for months. We revisited Miseducation even more often to prepare for it. And despite Hill's propensity for showing up late and reworking songs, our enthusiasm remained. The show was planned for a Saturday night, after all, so we would wait up all night to see her if we had to.
Then Saturday arrived. We were attending an 8-year-old's birthday party that afternoon, and shortly after we cut the cake I picked up my phone to check when the venue's doors would open. And right there, at the top of the Smart Financial Centre web page, I saw Hill's face and a single word: POSTPONED.
I felt a slight tinge of surprise... Mild shock even, as I looked over at my wife who didn't yet know the news. How would she take it? In stride, I was sure. After all, Hill is known for her onstage antics and tardiness. But an outright cancelation? That one hurt.
That very night, we could've gone to see Drake at Toyota Center. Or we could have gone to see Taylor Swift at NRG Stadium. Or we could have gone to see Interpol at White Oak Music Hall. Saturday's lineup was stacked, and we chose the wild card. Bet big, lose big, I guess.
When I finally broke the news, my wife experienced the same emotion as me: immediate shock followed shortly by resignation. She's known for this kind of thing, we mused. I guess we should have expected this, or at least made a contingency plan.
But why's the onus on us — the fans — to prepare for an unreliable artist? Sure, every act is a little different, and expectations should be set before you walk into a venue: You're going to get wet and messy at a GWAR performance; Kanye West is going to go on a tirade halfway through each of his shows; Modest Mouse is likely to insult you and rework songs to the point that they're hardly recognizable.
But you know what all those artists have in common? They show up. Their performances may be unpredictable and sometimes disappointing, but the performances at least happen. And when they do cancel, the news isn't immediately met with laughs.
Hill caught a cold, according to a statement from the singer-songwriter. Doctors had urged her not to perform. And it was her own dedication to fans, her own hope that she'd feel well enough to perform on Saturday night, that kept her from breaking the news until the 11th hour.
And you know what? Maybe it was true. Maybe Hill really is sick and feels truly awful about having to
cancel postpone the show. Unfortunately for Hill, her reputation precedes her. And that reputation is one of being both temperamental and egomaniacal.
When the Houston Press tweeted out the news on its Twitter account Saturday night, fans seemed unsurprised.
Anyone who STILL buys Lauren Hill tickets deserves this???????? I learned my lesson in 2007. That lady had us waiting for 3 hours & when she finally showed up NOTHING she sang sounded like da original songs! & her set was cut cuz she was so late ????— Genea mom (@GuerdyY) September 30, 2018
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Lauryn Hill has a reputation for not pitching at concerts and cancellations ..tats why she hasn't been doing so well financially .. don't hold your breath— ? The Caramel Unicorn???? (@Amara_molokwane) September 30, 2018
And a few fans responded directly to Hill herself.
I begged my husband for these tickets and he told me you would do this and I defended you. Traveled in the horrible weather only to find out it’s been cancelled. My husband said... pic.twitter.com/esfnNbBDJx— focus101 (@mrscritique) September 30, 2018
The show has been postponed to May 9, 2019, according to Smart Financial Centre's web site. If the stars align again, my wife and I would love to go. But if there are any other halfway decent shows happening in town that night, we just might come down with a cold.