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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Concert Review: billy woods

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing billy woods perform live in Summerhall, a student-run venue in the heart of Edinburgh. On first glance, the room seemed small – a tight space hardly larger than the average living room, with a wide passage leading up to the bar away from the stage. But as the show began, the advantage of having a small venue became obvious. The sound was crisp and loud; the crowd was packed and lively; and no matter where you stood, woods was in clear view. With blinding lights shining at his back, the rapper performed in full silhouette, maintaining his allure as a faceless MC.

His set began with “Asylum”, a chilling opener where a disjointed piano melody simmered beneath woods’s unnerved performance. As the horns came in and the rapper’s words turned to shouts, he kicked off the night with one of his most intense tracks. Even more explosive, “Asylum” smoothly transitioned into the nightmarish “No Hard Feelings”, a song so loud that woods sounded as if he were battling the instrumental for prominence. By this time, the crowd were still, not out of boredom, but from sheer awe at the MC’s power.

Though the show opened up in a logical fashion – recreating the first three-track run from woods’s opus, Aethiopes – after “Wharves” ended, the night became unpredictable. Between songs, the rapper remarked that this show was one of the first in years not tied to a specific album, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Jumping from 2012’s History Will Absolve Me into 2022’s Church, woods treated the concert like a medley of greatest hits, cramming in as many tracks from as many records as possible. Often times, the MC did not even get to the end of his songs. On standouts like “Crocodile Tears” or “Year Zero”, he offered one verse before transitioning into the next track.

Despite leaving me wanting more at points, the sporadic structure of the night made it all the more exciting. woods seldom took a moment to rest, hopping into the next song before the audience had the chance to applaud. What was framed as an hour-long show felt like it lasted twice as long, all thanks to the sheer number of highlights woods was able to squeeze into the runtime.

As the night drew to a close, the MC went on an emotional run, performing some of his most devastating tracks. After screaming into the microphone for the harrowing “Remorseless” and “Pollo Rico”, woods ended the night with “The Key Is Under the Mat”. The crowd roared with applause as the rapper left the stage. Although he did not offer the kind of concert to form mosh-pits and have the audience shouting along, woods brought more energy and talent to the stage than most rappers could ever hope to. Bringing relentless passion to every tune, the MC could have played for another hour without taking a breath.

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