As part of their “Freedom Of Expression exhibition, the British Library has the original Magna Carta and Bill Of Rights manuscripts on display. The ticket price for tonight’s event includes a viewing around the exhibition and it’s an informative and interesting celebration of the liberties and freedoms that should be our birthright but which Governments seek to curtail with draconian legislation.
Tongue Fu is a spoken word collective that are showcasing a variety of acts tonight, so we get some witty poems from the likes of Chris Redmond, the poet Baloji from Belgium. Salena Godden, Vanessa Kisuule and Dizraeli. They each have different styles and subject matter that they share with the appreciative crowd and it’s a good way to showcase what spoken word poetry entails.
DJ Norman Jay plays an eclectic selection of soul and funk prior to Saul Williams’ appearance, and by now the venue has filled up considerable. The problem with the British Library as a venue is that this event is taking place in the foyer, which has a very high ceiling and the dimensions of an aircraft hanger. This is fine for hearing poetry with no music but Saul Williams is playing a set accompanied by loud drum beats and a couple of back up poets/MCs who do that thing of shouting over the main lyricist to back up his vocals, making the whole thing hard to hear.
When he uses his rich baritone to deliver his spoken word without any music you get an indication of what a great artist he really is. He has a hypnotic and compelling delivery style and his impassioned vocals definitely strike a chord with the audience tonight. It’s just the shouting over the pounding industrial beats has less of an effect when the sound is bouncing off the walls then getting lost in the high ceiling.
I’ve seen Saul Williams perform in this venue before but in one of the function rooms, perhaps they should have done that again this time them we might have been able to hear what he was saying, So all in all it was a bit of a disappointing evening when it could have been so much better.