Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Being a Colorado native, I’ve essentially lost track of how many times I’ve been to Red Rocks Amphitheater. The first show I saw there was in ’06 or ’07, but they were by far some of the least memorable. What’s so great about that little hole in the ground in Morrison, CO – right off of I-70 coming into the foothills – is that you essentially have the kings and queens of the music industry right in your backyard. When I saw the 90’s throwback this past Tuesday night featuring Common and the immaculate Ms. Lauryn Hill, I was reminded of the shrine that is Red Rocks: a place that contains almost palpable musical spirituality and history.
Although the show is not typically the kind I attend at the venue, I was blown away by nearly all aspects of the night, from the weather to the sound to the lights – and, of course, the people. Opening up the evening for Common and Lauryn was the vocal trio En Vogue, and there couldn’t have been a better act to open up a celebration of 90’s R&B. Throughout a set that contained all their hits, such as “What A Man”, “Hold On”, and “Free Your Mind”, original members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron along with on and off member Rhona Bennett showcased their unmistakable harmonies, which are still in tip-top shape. The only downside of their set was that there was no live band, only pre-recorded arrangements.
What En Vogue did onstage that night couldn’t have prepared the crowd for what Common’s set had in store. Right about here is when the venue started to get a little smelly… and who could help themselves when listening to one of the best rappers of the past twenty years live? Common’s set was essentially a medley of his best features and his biggest hits, including his verse from “Get ‘Em High” off Kanye’s The College Dropout and the best songs from his own classic Be, including “Testify”, “The Corner”, and “Go”. He left the crowd with a message of unity that belonged “not only to black people, but to every kind of human being”.
The crowd got a little antsy when they had to sit through a segment from CNN’s new series The Nineties but it was jam packed with the music of the decade (Ms. Hill was probably using the break to get hella stoned backstage). Once the lights dimmed, though, the energy picked right back up.
It took ten minutes of introductory music from the live band and the MC before Lauryn came out on stage. Clad in a colorful dress covered by a denim jacket, she seemed to visually summarize her own success and the decade that brought it to her. The sound mix was phenomenal throughout as Hill soared through a nearly two hour set, including reimagined arrangements of Fugees classics like “Ready Or Not” and amazing performances of solo hits like “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Nothing Even Matters”. Her voice hasn’t aged a day, and her flow remains as intact as it was during her heyday. This show was a classic example of the stuff that keeps me coming back to Red Rocks.