The Roots live at Hammersmith Apollo
- Aug 26, 2011
The Roots are a band that you just know are brilliantly talented, will always put on an entertaining, varied show and will guarantee a great night out. Then despite all these facts, they never quite seem to get the recognition they deserve. They are critically acclaimed without ever being pushed by the critics and are popular but are never quite as popular as the acts they regularly appear and collaborate with (Jay-Z, Jimmy Fallon, John Legend, Mos Def etc, etc).
Because of The Roots' numerous collaborations and guest appearances you have probably witnessed their work more often than you may have thought. Anyone who saw Jay-Z's farewell (the first one) series of concerts in 2003 would have gone home singing the praises of the support band without ever really giving them too much thought. But you should, because when you see The Roots live you will see a fantastic show, like the one they put on at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo.
The band marched on behind Damon 'Tuba Gooding Junior' Bryson's sousaphone and began jamming around Bryson's output before launching into 'Thought at Work'. The lyrics of the track are perfect to showcase rapper Black Thought's Philadelphia drawl: "Cause y'all awwn it, I'm aquaman and brown hawwwnet, I'm like imhotp, but don't flawwnt it." With the track featuring so many mentions of 'Jumping awwwn it,' it was perhaps obvious that they would begin an impromptu version of 'Apache' by Sugarhill Gang at the conclusion of the track, everyone enjoyed dancing like cousin Carlton from the Fresh Prince regardless.
When looking at the set list after the show it is surprising to see just how few songs the band played (13) but you do not feel you have not seen a full show. There are only brief moments of silence when the band freeze motionless between early tracks as Black Thought dishes out his words of wisdom to the crowd, reminding them that "THIS is hip hop music."
Another reason for the short set list was due to drummer Questlove and percussionist Frank Knuckles' drumming clinic performed halfway through the show. Questlove began by tapping out a beat which Knuckles would mimic, this beat was slowed down, changed in pitch and swapped around before a nod of the head which brought the pair back together again. For their next trick Questlove put his right hand in the air and then slowly lowered it, bringing down the volume of the two drummers. But this wasn't the sound desk playing with the volume; this was the duo on stage. A slow change, then a quick change, from high volume to such a level that was barely audible in a blink of an eye and yet there was no change in the speed or rhythm of the beat, these are two guys who could fillet a steak with drumsticks if they so wish. As they finally built to a crescendo after eight minutes the dress circle rose in unison to cheer, clap and jump up and down at what they had just seen and heard. It was without doubt the highlight of the evening.
The crowd even had a part to play in the band's encore. Black Thought whipped the crowd to answer the questions, 'Who do you want?' (Roots Crew) 'And when do you want them?' (Right now). These questions were answered over and over again until they sounded like they were making a beat and then Questlove introduced the bass drum. 'Roots Crew! Roots Crew! Roots Crew!' the crowd were now part of the show and were as much responsible for this track as the band. Tuba Gooding then sparked up the brass from Gary Glitter's 'Rock and Roll Part Two' and everyone was pumping their fist and chanting 'HEY!' like they were at an NFL game. Questlove then changed the beat and the band launched into the group's most recognisable tune, 'The Seed' which sent everyone wild.
A superbly entertaining night and one that comes highly recommended.