Saul Williams

Artist: Saul Williams
Venue: Leeds Hi-Fi Club
Date: 23/05/08
Rating: * * * * *

Continuing a theme from the opposite page, Saul Williams is an artist very much in debt to the legacy of Gil-Scott Heron. Like him, Williams is, at heart, a poet- and his lyrical delivery is much in the same vein as Heron’s semi-rap style. Williams’ lyrics are often very complex and opaque- and all the more fascinating for it. In his opening song, ‘Coded Language’, a barrage of important names from literature, music, politics could, by themselves, take hours to pick apart.

But he also knows how to use music to give the lyrics real power. Eshewing generic hip hop backing beats, he shared the stage with a full (and amazingly attired) band who proved very able to bring out the eclectic musical styles of Williams’ three albums.

Williams himself has an immense stage presence and seemingly boundless energy in a set where he spent as much time climbing the ceiling as on stage. But his greatest passion became clear through his repeated declarations that race is nothing more than a social construct and that both music and student activism have played vital roles in major political struggles across the world. Still, with powerful songs like ‘List of Demands (Reparations)’ and his electro-fuzz cover of U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, Williams never loses the audience in a political tirade.

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