I saw KRS – One live a few months ago, and the musical assumptions of ageism took another body blow for sure. Aging musicians often lose the full power of their stage presence, and / or seem bitter or disillusioned or worn down by the passage of time, or lose the critical edge of their social perspective as a result of having learned to accept too much compromise in order to stay in the game over the long haul. None of that was in evidence here, that much clear from the moment he walked on stage.
I think this was the best live show I’ve ever seen. It has the advantage of being recent vs ones that are more distant memories, (Prince at Boston Garden in 2000, REM & The Feelies at Wang Center in 1986, Royal Trux at Middle East 1988, The Frogs at Middle East in 1989, Cecil Taylor at a community center in South Providence in 1989 with William Parker on bass, Nirvana at Club Babyhead in Providence Sept 25 1991, My Bloody Valentine live at Olympia Theater in Paris March 17 1992.) Recently, Mahmoud Ahmed a few years ago at Reynolds Theater at Duke is right up there, as was L. Subramaniam at The Plantation’s Baldwin Theater. But I think this was more powerful than all of them.
I don’t want to say too much about why for some reason. I tend to be very analytical about things in a way that can keep actual experiences at a distance. What struck me about this show was that it stopped that part of my mind in its tracks. Partly because what can you say to top the analysis of US history present in a track like Sound of da Police? But partly because KRS-One’s stage presence really hit me emotionally in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I can only compare it to experiences I’ve had when I was younger at silent meditation retreats that had to do with viscerally feeling that layers of social and educational and familial conditioning and, most of all, *lies* were simply dropping away. Like a stone falling through water, at some point there’s the experience of coming to rest at the bottom of the pond: this is the truth. There can never really be justice on stolen land.
On the one hand, KRS was completely and utterly confident in what he was doing – on the other hand, there was absolutely zero pretense or posturing on that stage. It’s an almost impossible combination to pull off. I think age + wisdom had a lot to do with it, though I never saw him in the 80’s / 90’s so maybe he’s just been like that from the start.