Billed as "an evening of poetry and music," Friday's performance at the Beverly Theatre by black American poet-musician-gadfly Gil Scott-Heron and black British poet-musician-activist Linton Kwesi Johnson featured precious little of the latter--namely, the four songs on which Scott-Heron provided his own piano accompaniment. Not everyone in the near-capacity crowd was pleased.
To be fair, most of what was presented as "poetry" was material from the performers' albums, stripped of its musical setting. Which made for an interesting study in contrasts: Johnson as the well-mannered firebrand, his rhetoric riding rumbling reggae riddims in thick Jamaican patois, while Scott-Heron came off as a slightly world-weary stand-up comic, punctuating his pungent one-liners with political raps in the rhythm 'n' vernacular of the urban streets.
Perhaps the sharpest contrast, however, was the expression of such incendiary statements within the confines of one of the most affluent neighborhoods in America. Freedom is a very fine thing. . . .