Amelia’s Magazine | Sage Francis: New and Improved with Even Less to Lose

Illustrations by Hayley Warnham

Packed into the small room that is Audio in Brighton, the atmosphere is rather muted. This is not a big glamorous event typified by the fact that the main attraction was stood behind a table selling his t-shirts five minutes before appearing on the slightly raised piece of flooring that makes up the stage. The build up is so low key in fact that it takes me a dozen or so seconds before I even notice the show has started. However this all fades away once the first spray of verbal gunfire shoots from Sage Francis’ lips.

The underground poet come rapper may not be performing in the same setting as 50 Cent or Eminem, but that’s certainly not for lack of talent. Sadly it is more likely because his lyrics are devoid of cheap thrills and instead built out of a delicacy of language and emotion more akin to Bob Dylan than any of the stadium filling rappers out there. The declaration that we are going to be treated to a wide range of songs from Sage Francis’ extensive back catalogue rather than just focusing on his latest album is greeted by a loud cheer from the anticipation-filled audience.

The smallness of the setting only adds to the intimacy and uniqueness of the show as a few hundred excited fans are treated to a night that is in turn passionate, fun and exhilarating all wrapped up in a playful spontaneity. This is typified by Sage Francis several times having to skip back and pause the CD player (that’s right, a CD player) that serves as his backing band because the music for the next song has kicked in before he finished whatever point he was making. This bare bones style would break most artists making it feel like glorified karaoke but Sage makes what could be a hindrance part of the show.

It’s clear that the audience is filled with people who truly love this man’s music as they joyously shout out the words to songs such as ‘Crack Pipes’ and ‘Escape Artist’. The atmosphere builds and builds till the music stops and Sage unleashes the emotionally raw ‘Dr Feel Nathan’, a poetic piece that weaves from spoken word to fast paced rap effortlessly and takes the whole room with it.

In juxtaposition to these moments of intensity, Francis isn’t afraid to inject some humour, like when one of the crowd’s favourites, ‘Broken Wings’, segues into Mr Mister’s cheesy hit ‘Take These Broken Wings’ with Sage miming the words in an over top performance that leaves friends in the audience smiling at each other. It is this balancing act that keeps the show so fascinating, as one man with a CD player manages to enrapture a room full of people whilst alternating between giving his views on how his and the Pope’s visit differ and performing one of his more heated songs to his shoe as though it were a very special lady.

All this is ignoring the biggest draw of seeing the man in the flesh, and that is his always impassioned and often spectacular vocal style that ranges from a slower more delicate delivery all the way to a rapid onslaught of intricate word play that is a marvel to hear live and never ceases to get the blood rushing in an audience giving just as good as they get.

It’s a testament to his back catalogue that even after an hour and half of nonstop songs including a jazzed out version of ‘Jah Didn’t Kill Johnny’ Francis’ tribute to Johnny Cash and the always captivating ‘Makeshift Patriot’ there is still so many songs that go unplayed that I would have loved to hear; top of the list being the frenetic ‘Different’.
The concert ends in a fitting way with Sage getting his pals B. Dolan and Scroobius Pip up on stage to close out the night. The trio are clearly having just as much fun as the audience with Sage and B. Dolan jokily pushing each other whilst alternating vocal duties and Pip crowd surfing his way back to the merchandise stand.
A great night for anyone who loves music with a soul.

Categories ,b dolan, ,Hayley Warnham, ,Sage Francis, ,Scroobius Pip

Similar Posts: