So Iris, Mr. Iris, Ro, and I made our way over to Martyr's, a tiny Chicago club that was packed for the late-night sold-out show. Normally shows that begin at 10 p.m. (with opening acts) make me grumpy, because a ghost dog loves her beauty sleep, but since I managed to double-book myself for another important event that night, it worked out to my advantage. We arrived approximately halfway through the opening set, as performed by the Dragons of Zynth. They kind of reminded me of Living Color, and there was some funk to their harder rock sound. I never fell madly in love with them, but I was pleased by the Barack Obama poster that they had flanking the stage. Sorry, Hillary fans, but you'll find a lot of Obama-love at a Saul Williams show.
There was a loooooooooooooooong wait between the two acts, but 40 minutes later, CX KiDTRONiK took the stage in full Spiderman costume, which had to be hot as hell because even at the back of the stage, your PP correspondents were roasting. (Unfortunately because the club remained cloaked in darkness for the entire show, we don't have quite as many awesome pics and vids for you, but of course, what Iris did manage to capture is brilliant, as usual.)
When Saul finally took the stage, he was dressed in feathers and tribal face paint, and this awesome, awesome David Bowie/Adam Ant-esque coat.
Saul opened with some spoken word, invoking the names of artists and revolutionaries, and he would return to spoken word several times throughout the set, which was actually quite exhilerating. His delivery is always powerful, even if you aren't entirely sure if what sounds profound actually makes any sense. It does make me wonder if he's apt to bust out into spoken word during normal conversations:
Me: Saul, what do you want for dinner tonight?
Saul: Fresh meat, feel the beat, the poet, the painter, the jungle, the temple, my heart is broken but my pants are mended...
Me: Oh, Jesus Christ.
Although Iris felt that Saul's vocals were occasionally off-key, this was a tight, tight performance with a lot of enthusiasm. Saul moved through the crowd, stood on the merchandise table, and got a room full of white hipsters to dance like dorks (no easy feat, I can assure you). The Public Enemy-influenced "Tr(n)igger" was an explosion of energy...I was surprised because it's the song that theoretically would appeal to me least, but it's now become my favorite song on the album.
"Niggy Tardust" was a fun experience for the audience as most of us participated in the amusing chorus..."When I say 'Niggy,' you say nothing. Niggy..." "NOTHING!" "Niggy..." "NOTHING!!!!" "Shut up." Saul took a few moments to chuckle at the audience members who looked a little intimidated. "Should I say 'nothing'? Should I just be quiet? Am I allowed to say the title of this song?" I believe it was at this point that Saul explained to us his belief that we are all one, and that when one of us is degraded with a racial slur, we are all degraded. Referencing Obama, he said that you don't have to have a mixed racial background to be "hybrids," and that we are all hybrids. Which is true. I mean, I'm the whitest girl on the planet, but through my veins runs the blood of nationalities that all hate each other, plus at least one genetic wild card where paternity couldn't be confirmed, so I could be part anything. So I agree with and embrace Saul's inclusive philosophy, but I'm still not going to be spouting off the n-word. Even when I sing along with "Tr(n)igger" in the car, it usually goes like this: "The trigger is YOU...the nnnnnn...is YOU...the trigger is YOU!"
If you haven't yet heard Saul's previous self-titled album, it's definitely worth checking out, as "List of Demands" and "Black Stacey" were standouts at this show and audience favorites.
Going back to Niggy Tardust, we also got "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Scared Money," the latter being one of my favorite tracks with the tambourine and voodoo rhythms. And as I'm trying to achieve some kind of self-actualization, the chorus has become a mantra of sorts for me. (Not that I'm talking about actual money when I remind myself that "Scared money don't make none.")
In other audience-bonding moments, Saul assured us that he reads his Myspace messages as he wished a happy anniversary to a fan who didn't seem to respond. So he felt like a dork for a moment, I think. He also encouraged us to visit the merchandise table, considering that most people just downloaded his album for free. (I'm very happy with my hyena t-shirt, folks, which was a reasonable $20, so I recommend indulging in some "Tardust" fashion. I was also happy to see that my t-shirt did not include the word "niggy" anywhere, as I didn't want to be the subject of any misunderstandings in public.) And we all got to sing happy birthday to the woman selling the merchandise for the night, and she appeared to be charmingly embarrassed.
I know I'm jumping all over the place, but it's hard to recount the intensity of this show. Here's a clip of "Banged and Blown Through," as filmed by Iris. You'll have to excuse the darkness and sound quality, as they had the volume turned up to 11 in the tiny venue.
There were also quieter, more contemplative moments. We were particularly moved by the part of "No One Ever Does," when he sings, "Suddenly, who I thought was me/ was not me at all/ and I feel so small/Sitting way beneath who I want to be/I don't want to be who I've grown to be..." At this point, Saul started removing the feathers from his headdress and dropping them to the audience, looking lost. An excellent performance of a song that I tend to write off as something that sounds like a Seal track.
When I walked out of Martyr's, well past my bedtime, I felt refreshed and invigorated, rather than exhausted. My ears were ringing, to be sure, but I'll forgive Saul for any aural damage, as this was one of the best live shows I've ever seen. At one point, I texted Gabriel to inform him that Saul Williams live was truly a mind-blowing experience. One that I can't recommend highly enough to all of you.
If you would like to check out more Saul Williams pics, look here!