Friday, November 14, 2008
Quite possibly one of the most fun Roots shows that I have ever attended (and that's saying a lot since this was show 19 for me.), the Miller Genuine Draft "Genuine Flow" show at the Vic was, despite the MGD name drops every 6 minutes (which none of the artists could take seriously, case in point, Cee-Lo must have been reminded back stage to name drop the beer and since he could give less of a fuck, told us that "my voice is scratchy. I need something cold, something refreshing. I need...a Miller Genuine Draft" and then burst into laughter with Black Thought) all about genuine musicianship and genuine camaraderie. DJ 33 1/3 kept the mostly older and black crowd (which was very refreshing to see, a Roots show that wasn't all bros) excited by playing what everyone wanted to hear: De la Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, ODB and straight up classics. WGCI's Tony Sculfield played MC and after his tired jokes about weed smoking and how Obama is going to have a DJ spinning at his State of the Union address (you, know, cause he's black. Get it?), the legendary Roots crew took the stage around nine, filing out in processional fashion, ?uestlove wearing a kuffiyeh like a hipster and Black Thought wearing a Cosby sweater looking blazer, and kicked off a nearly two and a half hour set in which goof ups, laughs, inside jokes, two-stepping and the soul machine Cee-Lo Green would all be a part of.
Their set was very similar to the set I saw at the Congress a few weeks back, but the beauty of the Roots, and one of the many reasons that I consider them to be my favorite band and favorite live act, is that no two shows are the same, regardless of set lists and current tricks they have up their sleeves. The subtle nuances, the tempos, the riffs, the solos, the impromptu joints, all change in various degrees, and the organic nature of their show always feels real. So, when "string assassin" Captain Kirk took over for his standard "You Got Me" operetta, he not only turned his scatting into "Sweet Child O' Mine," as he had done at the last show I saw, but he threw in a very Ike Turner move: sexualizing his strings and turning their high pitched moans and sighs into "Love to Love You Baby," which he sang beautifully, because his falsetto is terrifyingly woman like. ?uestlove missed his vocal cue during the Fela tribute, and Black Thought just started laughing at him, which made the whole band laugh at him, and the genuine bro love they all have for one another was beyond endearing. Last night, more than ever, was evidence of the fact that these guys play together every single night, but still love doing it, and still love each other.
Midway through the set, Cee-Lo emerged with his very unnecessary hype man, looking more like a regal Buddha than ever (he was not wearing the outfit shown above, unfortunately). The Roots backed his set, which included "I'll Be Around," an amazing reggae tinged slow burner version of "Crazy," that had everybody doing the dutty wine (it then morphed into a quite excellent cover of "Seven Nation Army" before going back to it's dance hall vibe) and a pretty straight ahead "Who's Gonna Save My Soul." The usually reserved Black Thought told us that "Cee-Lo is one of the few people in hip-hop I love and respect" and they recounted first meeting back in the Goodie Mob days. It was all very, "late night jam session"- just a few close friends hanging out and being fabulous - and the small atmosphere of the Vic was perfect for it. And then, my favorite part: after leaving the stage, ?uestlove urged him to come back out, and off stage we could hear his Atlanta drawl: "well, I don't wanna wear out my welcome and shit, but..." and he treated us to an epic a cappella (well, almost, Knuckles provided minimalist percussive snaps) version of the song that introduced us to Cee-Lo: OutKast's "Git Up, Git Out." He then left the stage, telling us not to spend all of our time trying to get high. Just "some of our time."