The Sugar Club is a strange aul venue at times. Often I’m there thinking…if there was a bit more room here…if there were another couple of seats there…but not tonight. It’s hard to imagine a more suited venue for this evening’s incumbent. Saul Williams takes his time getting to the stage but when he arrives he spews language from the depths of his consciousness in the spirit of communal awakening.
Decked out in tailored pink he engages the crowd before taking to a slightly raised platform stage-right, a temporary pulpit from which to preach. Williams is often labelled as a hip hop artist but there is neither hip nor hop in abundance tonight. His lyrics are prose, his backing tracks more tribal trance and…whisper it, jungle than anything resembling mainstream hip hop.
Williams’ show is just that, a show. There are several elements to be absorbed. Backed by a series of cut and paste images of tribal warriors, Donald Trump, even a distorted vision of the dancing baby from Ally McBeal with bullets of Williams’ poetry fired in randomly making every show unique.
The crowd lap it up. Williams recognises their energy and vows to match it. The pink blazer is abandoned along with any remaining restraint. He marches out into the middle of the Sugar Club’s tiered seating, straddling the lush velvet he preaches his visceral gospel against consumerism, digital exploitation and the hollow vanity of mainstream culture. Segueing smoothly into a spoken word piece his grip on the crowd is palpable, upon completion the room explodes in the energy he’s created.
Sensory assault, flashing images, harsh industrial backing tracks, bass so deep it massages your arse as you sit, the smell of sweat and the taste of weed hang in the air. There are several layers to this performance and there’s a density to each of them like a kind of lead onion. Each visual image suggests something but is coupled with some random text distorting slightly the clarity of the message. Williams’ lyrics too have several levels like the earths crust, your brain forced to act as a kango hammer trying to infiltrate the numerous layers.
The crowd whipped up into a frenzy with songs like ‘List of Demands’ and ‘That’s What’s Up’, as he spits the refrain “You ain’t got no Rhythm” a couple of hundred Irish people awkwardly shift their bones with no sense of irony at all.
This was more than just a gig; it was an experience, a happening. Cult-like reverence from the diehard fans and maybe even a couple of conversions on the night. Williams is a shaman for the information age, beatified in binary beats.