Saul Williams rocks, inspires at the TLA

The multitalented slam poet and musician put on a diverse show at the South Street venue, which was well-received.

The multitalented slam poet and musician put on a diverse show at the South Street venue, which was well-received.
Dressed in bright red and yellow Native American head feathers adorning his afro, with war paint on his face, some would have thought headlining act Saul Williams was celebrating Mischief Night in Philly. However, Williams was just doing what he has done in many other cities on his Afro Punk tour — putting on a wonderfully eclectic performance.

Singer, actor, rapper, poet and now, rock musician Saul Williams found a way to incorporate all of his talents into his pre-Halloween stage show at the Theater of Living Arts.

The night’s opening act, West Vienna, did its job of warming up the crowd by introducing the TLA’s South Street audience, to its own brand of genre-crossing music. The Philly group infused punk rock, jazz and soul, putting to use its two singers, saxophonist, bongos and church tambourine. The group, who had their own interesting attire, consisted of former members of local disbanded group Phillmore Brown.

During the breaks in performances, the sparse yet energetic crowd was treated to two guys performing a wide variety of bicycle tricks including spins, flips and kicks.

The show’s headlining act soon arrived on stage riding a bike of his own. Williams said he was excited for the performance and decided to come out early before his band, dressed in his David Bowie-inspired get up as his alter-ego Niggy Tardust, a play on Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.

Williams disappeared backstage as his band soon hit the stage in their own interesting get-ups, dressed in Dracula capes and outfits resembling Shredder from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Williams appeared on stage again, this time with his teenage daughter, Saturn, to perform his first song. Shortly after, he ordered the Converse logo in back of him to be shut off as the crowd gave cheers for him thumbing his nose at one of his corporate sponsors (the Budweiser sign stayed lit, however).

The man who, at one time, might have been the most famous New York poet went on tirades reciting poems from his critically acclaimed Sundance film Slam, in which he starred. However, most of the time he spent rocking out to songs off his five albums, which have been mostly rock-based as he has moved away from poetry.

When he was not giving impromptu speeches on individualism, jumping in the crowd or reciting poetry, he was mixing more than one genre of music.

He performed some material from his 2007 release, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, which was produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame and the 2001 release Amethyst Rock Star, produced by Rick Rubin. Williams performed such songs as “Black Stacey,” his cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “List of Demands,” all to the enjoyment of a small yet faithful crowd.

Jermar Perry can be reached at

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