Monday, June 9, 2008

Stalking the Roots

OK, I'm not really stalking The Roots, but I have seen them three times in the last month or so and I'm going to catch them this Sunday, June 15 at the Kiva in Albuquerque. That show is going to be the cap in the feather of my Roots tour, because it is with Erykah Badu and is rumored to be an amazing show.
But first, Philly.
So when I saw The Roots in St. Louis last month, they played at Webster, for a college crowd, and really pushed the new album, and played a little hip hop montage and all that. I already knew I was going to see them in Philly at the Roots picnic, but they added a pre-show the night before at The Theater for the Living Arts (TLA), which was my favorite theater when I was growing up. By the time I landed in Philly, the Philadelphia City Paper had hooked me up and I had tickets to both shows.
The Roots didn't take the stage at the TLA until well after 1 am, but in the meantime, QuestLove had put together more than half a dozen other acts to open, each one better than the next. SantoGold, who a lot of folks had come to see (she had to cancel playing the Roots picnic, which, I gather, was the reason they added the pre-show) was phenomonal, basically combusting on stage with fantastic energy and a voice like a knife. Janelle Monae also was a huge hit; her voice is so profoundly beautiful, I kind of started thinking The Roots were going to have trouble topping the night after she performed. Of course, they did not. The TLA is such a small venue (800 seats, maybe), that they really dug into their roots (sorry), and it was a much more freeform and jazzy show than they had put on at Webster.
The vibe was completely different the next night at Penn's Landing, but I swear to God when Blackthought was rapping on Seed 2.0, it seemed just mind-boggling that anyone human could spit out lyrics so fast and so precise and so down. They were followed by Gnarls Barkley (I thought it was kind of odd and had expected The Roots would play last, although Quest came out and ended the show with Cee-Lo singing). Barkley was beyond incredible. And I had to think, the whole time, that as long as The Roots, and Erkyah Badu and Talib Kweli and Kanye West are all still out there, hip hip is not dead, and I don't care what anyone says. There may be lots of crap out there, but the really good artists are so good, they just drown it all out. And, one more show to go. Again, The Kiva, Sunday night, The Roots and Erkyah Badu. Yes, you will see me there.

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