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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last Night: Gil Scott-Heron at Yoshi's

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 9:31 AM

  • Image Courtesy of: Mischa Richter
Gil Scott-Heron
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 


Better than: Anything on TV 

Gil Scott-Heron is old. For those born in the 1980s, you might have heard his "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" for the first time in a Nike commercial, which is about as silly as discovering "Born to Run" during a telecast of the Republican National Convention. But even though Scott-Heron's most powerfully insurgent work was all done before 1979, he updated his battle with the establishment in the 2000s with a series of drug arrests and prison time. 

"It's strange, because people said I disappeared," Scott-Heron told the audience last night during his performance at Yoshi's. "I wanted to add that to my act. Just come out and go 'Poof!'"

Scott-Heron was tall and slender, in a newsboy's flat cap with a puff of white hair peeking out the back like a cloud of dust behind a roadrunner. He addressed his absence by way of stand-up routine before the show--a rambling monologue given in his warbling baritone voice. His subjects included his vanishing, midget jokes, Bush jokes, black history month jokes, and even a Winston Churchill joke. "For those of you looking for a job, put a -ology on the end of whatever you'd like to do. And open up a office," Scott-Heron quipped. 

At last he hunched over his electric organ like a paperback novelist at the typewriter, still cracking jokes, and started singing the blues. His microphone's crackly feedback gave his music a sound like a worn record.

He then began a fable ("an old African folk tale, told to me by some old Africans") about the beginning of the world, starting with an agreement between the seasons turning sour when Winter complained it didn't get enough respect. This turned into a long, disguised poem about the seasons, with lines like, "footsteps sound like crunch." It was a great epic that cycled back to Winter's complaint, in order to introduce his 1974 song "Winter in America." 

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Lars Russell


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