It’s still unbelievable that Saul Williams was not able to sell out the 200-capacity backroom stage at Maxwell’s in Hoboken last night. It says something about the current state of the industry when watered down radio acts continue to fill up large capacity venues, while artists who challenge the status quo are relegated to self-production and small independent labels. Saul Williams, actor, poet, musician, is a revolutionary who continues to evolve, creating inspired poetry, both spoken and musical. CX KiDTRONiK has been Williams’ DJ and backup vocalist over the last few tours and often serves as the opening act, as was the case at Maxwell’s. CX was accompanied by another Macist DJ, and the two ripped through various mash-ups in front of a crowd that seemed very anxious for the main event.
During the end of one of CX KiDTRONiK’s mixes, Williams’ and bandmates approached the stage from the crowd banging a homemade drum. Once the band reached the stage, they went straight into “Explain My Heart,” from Saul’s latest album Volcanic Sunlight. The track is a prime opener, featuring tribal drums that slowly build to the first verse. Williams continued to aggressively strike his drum throughout the song, as well as the entire set. Another highlight for me was standout track “Black Stacey” from his 2004 self-titled album. Saul joked that he just met his drummer on the street that same day. Most of Williams’ studio tracks feature programmed beats (pre- and post-Reznor), and his live drummer absolutely nailed every one in perfect time.
Another highlight took place as Wiliams finished a mid-set poem on stage. He pointed out a friend in the audience, and she began playing violin from within the crowd. Saul then approached and continued with additional poetry, as we all encircled both of them. It was one of those concert moments you don’t soon forget. I captured it with my iPhone (apologies for the poor lighting):
While I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t play his epic, Trent Reznor-produced cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the song may have not fit with the vibe of the night. He did play “DNA,” one of my favorite songs from 2007’s The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust (produced by Trent Reznor). Luckily, Williams finished his set with “List of Demands,” his best and most popular track (also from 2004’s self-titled sophomore effort). Williams left the stage the same way he entered, but this time he embraced many fans in the crowd. Saul gave me a hug and told me to “be real.” With the current state of popular music, it is indeed very good advice that no one follows better than Mr. Williams himself.
Check out Saul Williams on his current Volcanic Sunlight tour here.