Sage Francis embodied the word “performer” for his nearly sold-out show. The Rhode Island native rapped, danced, told jokes, freestyled, philosophized and paid tribute to a variety of musicians. Waltzing onstage wearing a Strange Famous (his record label) flag as a cape, sunglasses with X’s over the eyes and a toupee, Francis burst into the very appropriate “Strange Famous,” then had the young crowd screaming along to his lyrics with “Escape Artist” and “Makeshift Patriot.”
The big reveal of the night came when Francis informed the crowd that he would focus on music from his first and highly acclaimed album, 2002’s Personal Journals. The news was met with cheers as the beat to “Crack Pipes” began to play. During the song, Francis added theatrics in the form of chalk in his hands, so when he clapped a dust cloud appeared. At the end, Francis joked about the venue’s acoustics, comparing it to a house party.
Musing on the state of hip-hop (“I used to have five hearts for hip-hop but now I only have half a heart for hip-hop.”), Francis implored the crowd to expand their musical horizons. Underscoring his point, he had Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” playing in the background before it transitioned to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” while softly repeating “sex machine” to a giggling crowd. Moving to “Dance Monkey,” he complemented the song with a dance routine. Capping the nearly two-hour performance, Sage Francis chose a tune that might have reflected the feeling of his fans: “The Best of Times.” ★★★☆☆