Sage Francis Does It His Way and Disappoints @ Gothic

If you were not disappointed by Sage Francis‘ show at The Gothic last night, you either had never seen him before, just became a fan with the new album or you weren’t there.  I’m sorry I have to be so blunt about this, but he came out on stage wearing a full suit to a Frank Sinatra song, and when he said My Way, he meant it.  This was a Sage show; by Sage and for Sage.  This was not a show for the fans.

He has made it clear recently that this will be the last tour for quite some time, and if that is true (which I have to believe it is, since he said mid-set that he ‘would be taking a long break after this’), this was the wrong way to go out.

Sage‘s shows are known for their unpredictability.  I have seen him in a huge beard and monk outfit with a boombox to back him up; I have seen him in boxers and an American flag draped over his 250lb body; I have seen him with backup singers and with various DJs and MCs.  I’ve seen him perform songs new and old and in between…trading poetry for rhymes; spitting hardcore rap and singing classic rock.  It’s always a good time.  No matter what serious topics his lyrics address, he is always having fun and so is the audience.

Last night was unpredictable as well.  Who would have thought he would come out in a full suit?  Who would have thought he would have Isaiah “Ikey” Owens from The Mars Volta as his keyboardist?  Who would have thought that Isaiah, the strangely sexy Mendee Ichikawa and the rest of the experimental Free Moral Agents would be his backing band throughout the night?  And who would have thought that he would deny his fans the classics they love in favor of the new album?

I understand being proud of your latest material and wanting to bring it to your fans, but you have to realize what your fans want.  It can’t be all “my way” if you want your fans to enjoy the show and keep coming back.  I saw The National perform the other night and they did every song from their new album, but I didn’t realize it until I saw the setlist.  It’s because they peppered the set with old songs.  You need to mix it up, something Sage failed to do enough of.

Now that I got that off my chest, I can tell you why I’m still glad I went to the show.

First off, the new material sounded much better in a live setting with a full band.  The aforementioned Isiah was a madman on the keyboards and Mendee‘s voice brought something special to the songs, some sex appeal (as well as a threat to slit a guys throat for peeking at the setlist too much).  Having a live drummer is always better than a drum machine, so that added intensity to the show as well.

Second, when Sage did let loose, he was funny as hell.  Having a bizarre conversation with a fan about why her boyfriend named his dog Sage Francis (because I’m the best!), taking a cell phone from a front row fan and mock-talking to his mom before telling her to go to hell, trying to heal a lazy man in the crowd from paralysis before pushing him off the stage and lastly, stage diving onto an unsuspecting crowd who miraculously caught his 250 lbs.

I want to believe he had a longer set planned, I want to believe he was going to bombard us with Personal Journals and A Healthy Distrust material at the end.  I want to believe this.  But he ended with The Best of Times, and while it is a good song and it was made even bigger onstage (my friend compared it to an Arcade Fire song), there was no encore.  The show just ended…the lights came on…and everything felt flat.

Maybe the altitude killed it.  He was complaining about that.  Or maybe he’s just Sick and Tired again…and a break will be a good thing for him.

Oh well, I was working on 3 hours sleep the night before anyway, so when they show was over before 11pm I was happy to go home and crash…with songs of The National still ringing in my head.

Sage FrancisThe Best of Times

Setlist:
Three Sheets To The Wind
Sea Lion
Specialist
Slow Man
Polterzeitgeist
Worry Not
Hell Of A Year
I Was Zero
London Bridge
Broken Wings
Hopeless
Love The Lie
Little Houdini
Crack Pipes
The Cure
The Best Of Times