A few years ago, when the backpacker scene was exploding and everyone was talking about the next great white MC, who would’ve thought that in 2007 Sage Francis would be the last one standing? Or anyway the only one who hadn’t plateaued. When it comes to skills, some of his peers outstrip him–his enunciation and flow are redolent of slam poetry–but his focus on the personal-political keeps his rhymes sounding fresh. Francis’s latest, Human the Death Dance (Epitaph), takes on the weighty topic of mortality but uses humor to temper the grimness; rhymes about CAT scans fall in between songs about ravers turned MCs and a skit sending up George Bush with broccoli-related sound bites from Iron Chef. Francis’s records are fun, but they’re the last thing you’d bump to in the car or the club. Thankfully his live shows raise the stakes: last time I saw him, he’d grown a Castro beard and was wearing a monkey suit and doing gymnastics while rapping about the president. Buck 65 and Alias open. See also Saturday. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $20, 18+. –Jessica Hopper