For those not familiar with Sage Fancis he is an American rapper, lyricist and poet. Rising to fame on the slam poetry scene, he won the emcee battle Scribble Jam back in 2000 and has since developed a cult following with his single ‘Makeshift Patriot’ and 2002’s debut album ‘Personal Journals’. He’s a hard working DIY artist who runs his own label Strange Famous Records putting out releases and supporting underground rap artists. In short, he’s associated with the likes of B.Dolan, Scroobius Pip, Buck 65 and Eyedea.
Sage Francis spends a lot of time on the road which, alongside his five studio albums, has earned him a strong reputation and a dedicated fan base. His show at The Haunt sits between sell-out dates in Bristol and London, part of the European leg of his world tour supporting the release of his new album ‘Copper Gone’. His Brighton gig, while not sold out, is a busy one.
Sage comes on stage looking somewhat like a preacher with a black gown and gold necklace, his white hood up whilst wrapped in a black Strange Famous Records flag. There’s a wild response from the crowd, and it’s clear this show will be a little different from the three we’ve seen before. While Sage is often a one-man show this night sees him playing the beats via his laptop with no assistance whilst backed by a single projection of music videos and clips.
Starting with his new single ‘Vonnegut Busy’ he follows with his bigger tracks ‘Crack Pipes’, ‘Sea Lion’ and ‘Escape Artist’ with strong energy. It seems this bare bones approach to stage production, which could easily have fallen flat, is going to work as the crowd are singing the words right back. Whilst other artists could struggle with this set-up, Sage swings confidently between belting out crowd-pleasing classics, playing old tracks over new music and even turning off the beats to continue a capella to a respectfully quiet and engaged room. One minute he’s hyping up the crowd and encouraging us to keep pace with his rapping, the next he’s bringing the energy level down again with the more heartfelt, honest and sincere tracks like ‘Agony In Her Body’. Alongside some quite spectacular dancing the likes of which we’ve not seen at a Sage show before, it makes for a hugely enjoyable night.
For the encore he brings on Scroobius Pip for two songs and their ‘Ante Up’ crowd-pleaser before finishing with ‘It’s Been A Hell Of Year’ and ‘Makeshift Patriot’. As is tradition with this current tour Sage steps down to join the crowd and doesn’t leave until he’s given a hug to everyone who wants one. There’s a queue, just look at the final photo.
The Haunt, Tuesday 21st October 2014
Words and Photos by Mike Tudor