After eighteen months of touring that included kicking off the World Cup, K’naan chose San Francisco to be his final major stop. He performed to a packed crowd at The Fillmore last Thursday night. Of all the concerts I’ve seen in the Bay Area, this was one of the best: the venue, the artists, and the vibes dazzled the senses and resonated long after the last beat was finished.
Paper Tongues, a raucous rock band from North Carolina, warmed up the stage with an eclectic blend of hip-hop, funk, rock, and soul. K’naan, most famous for his anthem “Wavin’ Flag,” launched into his act with a breathtaking portrayal of the conflict in his native Somalia, of the street games and wretched violence, of his journey to the Americas and his search for identity in the midst of unexpected stardom. His rhymes ranged from disarmingly smooth to staccato and shrill, capturing the cultivation of his sense of self in the midst of the ravages of war. While the concert ostensibly promoted his latest album, Troubadour, he also pulled out some classics from his first album, such as “If Rap Gets Jealous.”
A little on the venue. It’s primarily standing room only, with an old-school bar to one side and plush balcony seats above the main floor. The Fillmore has a storied history in San Francisco and has been host to many of the greatest rock acts, including my personal favorite, The Grateful Dead. The space has good acoustics, perhaps too good—I’d strongly recommend a pair of earplugs if you want to be able to hear anything the next day.
I was able to record the song “Wavin’ Flag,” available here. I cut it down to a shorter version because the one K’naan played lasted for an epic 12 minutes. The sound quality is not the best, but you can still get a sense of how sick the un-mixed, original song is live.