This past Tuesday (Sep. 12) I got the chance to see billy woods & Kenny Segal live in concert at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Their collaborative album “Maps” is one of my favorite projects to release this year, so I was very excited. Thankfully, it was a phenomenal show that completely exceeded my expectations.
This was my first time going to a concert at Motorco, and I thought it was a great venue. I did not expect it to be as small as it was (with a capacity of about 500 people) after looking at photos online, but I think that definitely added to the experience. Most of my favorite concert memories are at smaller venues.
Opening for woods and Segal was former WKNC Double Barrel Benefit 19 performer Austin Royale, who brought amazing energy from the get-go. After entering the stage to a chill Sampha track, he brought the heat immediately, playing a setlist of mostly unreleased songs from his upcoming album.
I thought Austin was an amazing performer. Being the opener for a bigger act is never easy, but he was able to manufacture energy unlike almost anyone else I’ve seen. Commanding people to move closer to the front, calling out those who were sitting down and jumping into the crowd to start a mosh pit himself were some of the tactics he used to hype everyone up. It was truly impressive.
Royale ended his set by serenading the crowd with a slow paced alternative rock song. The audience took turns clapping with his daughter, who was also on stage at this point. It was a really heartfelt moment. Some of billy woods’ last words of the night were applauding his performance, saying of Royale, “that kid’s going places.”
After Royale left the stage, his close friend DJ Pauly Guwop kept the fans entertained while we waited for the main act. Shortly after, the lights dimmed and Kenny Segal entered with woods nowhere to be found. After playing some avant-garde jazz sounds of his own, Segal began to chop up samples from their collaborations. Cycling through many familiar sounds kept the audience on our toes, as we never knew when woods was about to enter the stage and start rapping.
Finally, we heard Kenny play the drum loop from “Kenwood Speakers” and woods hopped on stage. After that, they went immediately into “Soft Landing”, one of my personal favorites from the album. I appreciated how many dedicated fans were in the crowd, it seemed like everyone was singing along to almost every word, and that made the experience even better.
One thing that struck me during the show is how well woods’ rapping translated to a live performance. I don’t think I’ve seen another rapper live who sounds as close to their studio version selves. His technical skill didn’t fatigue or degrade as the show went on either, he was like a machine out there.
Woods also came across as a really genuine person, stopping before songs to praise and give credit to his producers and other collaborators. It’s impressive the catalog of classic tracks that he has built up through the years. “Year Zero”, “checkpoints”, “Western Education is Forbidden” and “Remorseless” are all songs he played that I would recommend if you haven’t listened before.
Seeing some of your favorite artists live is always special, and this was no exception. I highly recommend seeing billy woods & Kenny Segal live if you ever get the chance, this was a really great show.