Saul Williams · The Sugar Club · 4th August
As much as it pains me to admit, I think being bored by musicians talking during their concerts may be a sign of approaching age. Being addressed by the people we pay to see should be, for any fan, one of the defining moments of a musical event; our most coveted glimpse of the personality behind our icons.
But now that social media has eliminated any sense of distance between influential people and their followers, I’ve found myself noticing that when my musical heroes pause amid a thrilling set and attempt to shoot the breeze - outpourings of gratitude, political statements, reassurances that they love Ireland and that they’re not just saying that - they’re rarely telling us anything we don’t already know. They mean well, but I want the music.
As I stood at the back of a crowded Sugar Club in early August, I got the feeling that, were I to share this concern with Saul Williams, he would have understood.
After a moving and energising supporting set from spoken word powerhouse FeliSpeaks a.k.a Felicia Olusanya, Williams launches straight into a selection of songs from his latest album, MartyrLoserKing, setting the tone for a non-stop, purely material-centred performance that locks in his audience for over an hour.
Behind him, a screen illuminates a barrage of uncontextualized statements; “You can’t unring the bell”, “Fuck your history teacher”, “Her newborn cyclops had my eye”, “Smash the binary” and “The jury hung from every ceiling”, to name a few.
Many of these went over my head - why pretend? Whatever statement, if any, Williams made with the use of the screen, I’m sure it was a valid one.
What made this performance brilliant was that the interpretation of the critiques of social injustice and modern society contained within MartyrLoserKing was not, at any point, explained to the audience between songs, which gave the set a refreshing flow that the world of live music appears to lack.
Williams’ show is pure music. At one point, he breaks away from the mic and dedicates 90 seconds to pure poetry, connecting with his audience on a personal level, but not stopping the show in order to do so.
Williams eventually pauses for one quick thank you to his audience for coming, and finishes with fan favourite 'List Of Demands', ending the show on a high note, having spent a solid night letting the work speak for itself.
Written by Ellen Murray