At the Gothic Theatre on Monday, Sage Francis announced to the crowd that he was taking a break – “a long break” to be precise. After several albums and consistent touring, it seems that this spoken-word-artist-turned-indie-rapper from Providence, R.I., might actually be temporarily throwing in the towel.
Monday’s show certainly gave off that impression.
Sage’s set contained the usual hodgepodge of new tracks intermingled with older crowd pleasers. But the overall feeling of the show was a bit different than his previous Colorado shows.
How was it different?
Well, for one, Sage dropped his famous post-9/11 “Makeshift Patriot” from the set list for the first time in several tours. But more than anything, Francis & crew gave off a feeling of changes to come. Gone was the antagonizing showman spouting off loaded rants. Gone was the heightened level of intensity oozing from the stage. But that’s not to say it wasn’t a great show.
With Free Moral Agents (featuring Isaiah Owens of the Mars Volta) as his backing band, Sage Francis interacted with the crowd during and in between each track. He put on the charisma, placing energy into every rehearsed number. Having seen Sage Francis solo on several occasions, the band definitely felt like a enhancement more than a detractor. “Personal Journals” favorites like “Crack Pipes” and “Smoke Signals” took on a larger feeling with more than just the man and his mic.
Near the end of the set, my friend, a 13-show-Sage-Francis-veteran, remarked, “It’s actually kind of cute.” And he was right. Sage’s backing singer bounced around the stage, exchanging chuckle-inducing banter between songs. With keys and drums and guitar, the tracks became more — dare I say — funky? The smiles from the stage only encouraged that sentiment. And then with a no-encore ending, Sage hopped into the crowd and made rounds through every row, embracing members of the audience. The gesture truly felt like a temporary career “goodbye.”
Will the fans be sad to hear he’s called it quits for a couple years? Definitely. But it could also be an opportunity to recollect before trying something new. At least we all got one big, sweaty hug out of it.
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Erica Grossman is a Denver-based writer and photographer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.