Maybe it was a case of the Mondays last night, or the forecasted thunderstorms that failed to materialize that contributed to a half full Opera House for an impressive triple bill of hip hop headlined by Sage Francis.
Celebrating the release of his fifth album, Copper Gone (released today), Francis brought along his Strange Famous Records signing B. Dolan and Toronto’s own D-Sisive.
D-Sisive had not been on long by the time I arrived. The name seems to have disappeared over years of late, and this was his reminder that he was still around. A sparse crowd didn’t really make for an intense meeting of the minds, but his flow and sound was good.
B. Dolan, was up next and initially I thought it was Mr. Francis himself, based on appearance from my vantage point. Instantly this tank of a man upped the intensity and drew more people down to the floor and into the gig itself. Performing along to a laptop, Dolan was fierce, spitting out rhymes over some beats and venue shaking bass. A new track performed acapella was especially impressive. I hadn’t even heard of the man before last night, but after his quick half an hour and doing some research today, I’m sorry his merchandise was not available as I would have snapped it all up.
I haven’t heard Sage Francis’ most recent two records, the new Copper Gone and 2010’s Life, but when I saw a man in a cape take the stage at Francis’ set time, I was shocked. I’m sure my jaw was agape as I moved closer to the stage to make sure the eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Propped by his DJ and B. Dolan, Francis looked like a slighter version of a bearded John Goodman. He also appeared to be completely out of it as he wobbled on stage. I anticipated a train wreck.
But like an adrenaline shot, the real Francis came to life, working the stage, and eventually losing the baseball cap, the wig and the cape. Francis was in good spirits despite the border not allowing his merchandise, including copies of the new album. This did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the quality batch of fans that did show up, who happily became part of Francis’ show.
Sound was the biggest issue for the evening and I found that depended on where you stood in the venue. Francis is a smart rapper and it was unfortunate that his lyrics were buried in a muddled mix. When I parked myself behind the soundboard, the sound was clearer, a discrepancy I’ve never really experienced at the Opera House.
But the biggest disappointment was the make-up of the audience. Last night was clearly the whitest crowd I’ve been part of and that to me was baffling. I’ve seen more diversity at a kd lang concert, which is a shame because while Francis might not be fashionable, he is important for what he says and how he’s presenting it.