by WestCoast Weasel WestCoast Weasel
June 8, 2010

May 31, 2010
The Biltmore Cabaret
Vancouver, B.C

I arrived at the often hot, stuffy, yet always appealing Biltmore Cabaret in anticipation for a night of conscious hip-hop.  Outside, moments prior, I wondered if the pat down search was due to the genre of music about to be unleashed or if it was simply my luck that I’d never been pat down here before.  Either way, it wasn’t the heat packin’ type of crowd.

Free Moral Agents pleased the crowd with a funky, psychedelic pop-rock set.  They sat somewhere between Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and The Mars Volta.  That is, perhaps due in part to the quirky, Asian-American female vocalist Mendee Ichikawa and Isaiah Owens (keyboardist from The Mars Volta), respectively.  Offbeat yet impressive drum fills caught my attention but I was anticipating the bigger beats that would follow, this evening.

B. Dolan an emcee from Rhode Island hit the stage, claiming to ‘drain us of our negativity’ before Sage takes over.  Spitting out explanations of why he left New England for NYC and back again—“Leaving New York” had me excited…make that pumped on hip-hop unlike I had been in a while.  He immediately took hold of the East Vancouver crowd with a fierce tongue and bass-heavy beats behind him.  “Vancouver, we’re in the house like Asbestos tonight!” he exclaimed between his opening, venomous tracks.

“Joan of Arc had a dildo named Jesus / She never stopped to wonder, for even a moment / Why “Jesus” never came” received headshakes and laughter alike in the counter fundamentalism cut.   The entire backing track for his next tune was that of M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” which was anything but impressive.  It’s one thing to sample an old track but to use a Top 40 single’s music as the foundation for your latest song is questionable.  For example, when he came out dressed in a cape, with “Eye of The Tiger” playing in the background, during his gimmicky Super Dave routine—it was a little more appropriate.  Overall, he had a tight, entertaining set.  B. Dolan the hip-hop showman.  Check him out.

The room was packed to the teeth tonight with a truly diverse crowd ranging from punk-rockers to skate-boarders to clubbers and the list goes on.  They were all here to experience a night of no-borders hip-hop and Sage was the man to deliver it.  The precursor of his set was Sinatra’s version of “My Way,” a rather apt depiction of how Sage carries himself.  Behind the curtain was the man himself along with the Free Moral Agents crew who were to be his backing band this evening.

He utilized the band’s full potential right out of the gate as “Three Sheets To The Wind” played.  The tune, one of many full band cuts from his recent Li(f)e album containing indie-rock collaborations.  On that note, it was truly interesting to hear “Sealion,” a track normally collaborated with Saul Williams performed with Mendee’s vocal replacement.

“Slow Man”, “Worry Not” and “Polterzeitgeist” (the latter dedicated to those who believe in fake ghosts) all from Li(f)e played back-to-back before Sage scaled things back to a simple, poetic spoken word offering.  Hearing old tracks like “Product Placement” and “Specialist” kept things well rounded amongst a Li(f)e heavy set,  offering three quarters of the new record.  Having the full band here worked wonders when the gritty guitar solo played during “Little Houdini,” yet part of me sat wishing it was simply Sage and bad-ass bouncy beats behind him.  He dedicated his last three songs, which included “Crack Pipes” and finally “The Best of Times” (no encore) to his father who’d passed a few days prior.  R.I.P.

Visit these artists online:

Sage Francis – myspace.com/sagefrancis / sagefrancis.net
B. Dolan – myspace.com/bdolansfr
Free Moral Agents – myspace.com/freemoralagents

Sage Francis “Sea Lion” feat. Saul Williams

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