There was no band this time around. Sage was not wearing a suit. This was not the highly produced show called Li(f)e. Last Friday night, on a small stage in the Goodwill Parking Lot off Broadway, it was just Sage Francis, his mixer dubbed ‘DJ No Spin Zone‘ and a Strange Famous cape. For well over an hour we were witness to what made us Sage fans in the first place. A no holds barred cornucopia of human emotion. An uncensored look into the mind of true poet. Politics, love, teenage angst, damage (uhhh!), damage (uhhh!), destruction, terror — it was all on display for our viewing and listening pleasure.
The set was very heavy with material from 2005‘s A Healthy Distrust. Tracks like Sea Lion, Bridle and Escape Artist already sound like classics only 6 years later, but it was the updated versions of Jah Didn’t Kill Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix didn’t kill Johnny) and Slow Down Gandhi (the boogeyman is gone, but the war goes on) that really roused audience participation. ‘when I say hip, you say shut the fuck up I ain’t saying shit!‘ As funny as that might be, this crowd did not need instructions on what to say or when to say it — finishing verses on command all night.
This time around Sage really did bring it raw. A one-man comic, poet, emcee and dance machine. Rapping about eating broccoli over 2 Live Crew, dramatically lip syncing to Mr. Mister‘s Broken Wings, dirty dancing to Nine Inch Nail’s Closer, ending political rants with Team America’s theme song minutes before bringing girls to tears with firsthand stories about the AIDS endemic in South Africa. The man is truly an entertainer.
Hell of a Year and Water Line were highlights from Human The Death Dance as were Broken Wings and Climb Trees (my first hit, where I made my first million) from Personal Journals. He even took it further back with the staple Makeshift Patriot and Non Prophets‘ That Ain’t Right. Conspicuously absent were tracks from Li(f)e but The Best of Times served as an appropriate closer, ending the set just after 10pm.
I have seen Sage quite a few times and this was by far the best show since San Francisco six years ago. I hope he got the ‘full band’ and ‘big production’ aspirations out of his system and now realizes he is best as a one-man show. Even bringing B. Dolan out for a couple tracks took away from the performance on Friday night, but luckily that was the exception to an otherwise perfect show.
I hope all three Colorado dates were as successful as this one.
Setlist (might be out of order and not 100% correct):
Hell of a Year
Dr. Feel Nathan
Jah Didn’t Kill Johnny
House of Bees (w/ B. Dolan)
Damage (w/ B. Dolan)
Slow Down Gandhi
That Ain’t Right (Non Prophets cover)
New Song (about South Africa)
The Best of Times