Fugees return to New York for their first gig in 15 years … after a three-hour wait

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Dressed in a red frock that flounced as she performed, the rapper, singer and musician Lauryn Hill told the eager but weary crowd: “Respect the miracle. Respect the miracle of this union” three and a half hours later than billed.

Related: Fugees announce reunion world tour, 25 years after The Score

High above the shores of New York City at Pier 17’s rooftop venue, she and her Fugees group mates Wyclef Jean and Pras reunited on stage for the first time in 15 years, a “secret show” put on by Global Citizen. The performance, which took place during the 25th anniversary of their famed second and final album, The Score, seemed to be a preview of the group’s upcoming, just-announced 12-city international tour.

The rap trio performed their hits like Killing Me Softly, Ready or Not and Fu-Gee-La for the excitement of their fans and the performance itself was energetic and lively, albeit short. They notably did not perform any of their solo hits, perhaps due to the time crunch created by their own tardiness. But it was evident the group had a mutual respect for each other on the stage, something they even seemed to admit was hard won.

The Fugees, formed in the early 90s, gained rapid popularity in the ensuing decade. They are still very much a collision of new and vintage, a perfect example of the adage “The more that things change, the more things stay the same.” In many ways, they are the same Fugees, still very much three high-schoolers who met in New Jersey. But in a new age, the political undertones of their 90s lyrics are perhaps more striking because they are just as relevant as ever.

Jean, in an Alexander McQueen tuxedo, donned a hat with a Haitian flag tucked underneath and spoke about the citizen and migrant crisis of the much afflicted country. During a monologue, Jean even called upon Joe Biden to rewrite and change the policy for Haitian migrants, to reverse whatever has allowed for such harsh treatment of his countrymen. The Haitian-born musician referred to the photos and videos of migrants being whipped by Texas border agents on horses, corralling the people in a way more reminiscent of cattle rather than human beings. “Haitians shouldn’t live like that!” he declared, later shouting Black Lives Matter.

It was the weight of nostalgia which drew fans across the New York area for the secret show. The aforementioned respect for the reunion of the famed group kept them in place for the three-and-a-half-hour wait without cellphones for company (visitors were made to give technological devices away at the start). “That’s why we’re all here. We’re all in this abusive relationship with [Lauryn Hill],” one fan told the Guardian. The fan mentioned seeing them would be “one amazing show” but she had been “jilted by Lauryn [Hill]’s lateness” before.

With the show due to begin at 6.30pm, the large crowd of fans, made up of those who listened to the record in the 90s and those who became familiar in the second wave of its popularity, waited excitedly but decidedly weary because of the artists’ reputation for late performances (Hill was two hours late to a Paris gig in 2018 and four hours late for a 2010 show in Brooklyn). At 9.30pm, the Fugees had not yet materialized on stage. The DJ continued to stall, even as the crowd grew restless. Finally, the stage showed signs of life at 9.57pm, even while the venue was due to close at 10pm. The band finally began playing at 10.07pm with the group soon to follow. After Jean’s rendition of No Woman, No Cry, the set ended at approximately 10.57pm.

A broadcast of the concert will be aired this weekend during Global Citizen Live festival and the trio are due to go on their international tour after this New York show, beginning in Chicago. Those who intend to attend should pack their patience and wear sensible shoes.

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