CONCERT REVIEW: The Roots at Montreal Jazz Festival

Photos by @gravity508 at The Roots Picnic 2010.

The Roots are truly the hardest working band in show business right now.

How else can you explain working 5 days a week in NYC while “communing” from Philly, banging out albums between sets, producing another album (John Legend), throwing jam sessions and their own picnic, and crossing the border to do Montreal Jazz Fest? Somebody give these guys a medal.

And with all of this hard work, they still have the energy to rock a 2 hour plus long show to a sold out crowd at Montreal’s Metropolis theater.

First and foremost, The Roots are a jam band. There is no predefined setlist, no reliance on the hits, no short punchy pop songs. Just two hours of some of the most diverse music known to man. Folks coming to hear the band play tracks from their latest album in full were disappointed–they only played the set staple “How I Got Over,” and “The Fire,”–but they made up for this point by playing anything and everything from their vast musical knowledge base–whether it’s a cover of The Isley Brothers or Guns N’ Roses or even the latest Jock Jam.

In actuality, their show was more about showcasing the band rather than the music. Each member received a 20 plus minute set all of their own. Whether it’s Questlove going in on dueling drum solos with percussionist Frank Knuckles, or Capt’N Kirk showcasing his ultra versatile guitar style. Unlike the serious tone of most of the albums, the Roots come to party. The band has fun on stage, running around the stage and doing coordinated dance moves. It’s actually heartening to see a hip-hop act have fun on stage for once.

SIDENOTE: Kirk needs to do a solo album RIGHT NOW. I mean really the dude is probably one of the top 5 guitar players touring at the moment. He can pretty much murder anybody out there as he demonstrated several times during this performance.

Even though The Roots might have deviated from the corporate script–a tribute to Fela Kuti got blank stares–it’s the hits that brought the crowd around. “You Got Me,” had the crowd of nearly 2000 singing into tears, while the ever perennial “The Seed 2.0,” and “The Next Movement,” got a larger response out of the crowd than anything else in their set.

After more than 20 years in the game, we can safely say that The Roots have not lost their touch, and we can even say that they’ve gotten even better with age. Each stage show seems to see the band get more tighter with their sound, and more comfortable with their stage appearance. It’s almost a rarity in hip-hop to see one crew work so hard to entertain.

At this point, I would usually drop the “if they come to your town…” line. However if you haven’t seen the Roots live yet you’re losing. Nuff said.