Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saul invades The Freud

How exactly do you classify an artist like Saul Williams? The most common move is to just lump all his vocations into a long string of words - preacher, rapper, poet, philosopher, chef, good driver, fashion icon, dancer... Instead, I'm going to say, "Seeker of Truth". If there is a path that might lead to expanded knowledge, Saul is ready to walk it. His mind is bigger than anyone I've ever come face to face with; however, it is not used as a mere parlor trick. His genius doesn't lie in his ability to talk fast, recall pages of lyrics or mastery of beat - it lies in the content of his words.

This was my first Saul Williams show, and my expectations were set pretty high. The lights went down, the crowd got excited, and then Staceyann Chin appeared instead of Saul. Since this was such a formal event, I hadn't expected any opening acts. So I sat back and hoped for the best. I got about half the best I had hoped for. Staceyann is clearly a talented poet, but (like a lot of slam poets) her focus was too narrow. It was all about how guys can't handle her being a lesbian and/or part black. It pisses me off when people tell me how I must feel about them, since I am a straight, white male. She immediately embodied the ignorance she was accusing me of.

Staceyann was a mediocre appetizer, and now I was starving for the main course. Sporting mohawks, both Saul Williams and his DJ stormed the stage, blowing through a handful of songs (mostly from his S/T album). In the middle of this set, Saul stopped and addressed the sitting audience, saying "I know this is the Freud Playhouse, and we need to act scholarly, but god damn lets have some fun." Everyone quickly jumped to their feet, and the party began.

Saul's performances are evenly divided between hip hop and spoken word, and he discussed the awkwardness of his transition into poetry. After a few minutes of indecision, the duo rocked one more song, and Saul then said goodbye to the beats. If his hip hop segment was a 9.9, then his spoken word was a 10.0. I wish I could crawl into his brain for a moment, and find out where he stores his memory vault. If he lived a few thousand years ago, Saul would have done well with oral traditions. While he did a few songs off his album sans music, he also recited from his 2003 book, Said the Shotgun to the Head. He must have gone through 10 pages all from memory. The free-verse prose centers around a homeless man who believes that he has met the Messiah.

What else is there to say? If you don't own any Saul Williams, check out this mp3 and go buy an album.
Saul Williams - Telegram

(Unfortunately, our camera ran out of batteries at the show so these are just stock photos.)


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