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Issue 1084

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The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11

The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11
The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11 The Roots: Labatts Apollo, Hammersmith 19/08/11

Despite the fact that the Roots have been in existence since 1987, I'd never experienced them live. They don't visit these shores too often and I'd missed them backing John Legend recently. So tonight was the chance to see the four times Grammy winners/global superstar neo-soul & hip-hop band and experience them first hand. I was ready for surprises, but I wasn't prepared at all for what followed!

First up was Kano an east london rapper/MC who warmed up the vast crowd nicely with his doom laden thunderous beats. His cocky yet warm delivery won him over some new fans. He delivered a polished stripped down set sticking to his grimier roots that has made the likes of Busta Rhymes, Nas ,Chuck D Jay-Z and countless others become admirers of his work especially his UK Gold Status album "Home Sweet Home." Kano had teed up the evening and acquitted himself - job done!

Excitement levels shot up when The Roots took to the stage. They went straight into some grungy funk-rock workout with "Black Thought" spitting rhymes out like a rabid dog. A quick blast of "Apache" that hip-hop oldie goldie ramped the party up and events soon became a game of musical chairs as they plundered the world of rock music citing Led Zeppelin, Guns and Roses (a full version of Sweet Child Of Mine can you believe!) and rather ill advised, a mercifully quick version of Gary Glitter's "Rock n' Roll"! No one saw that one coming!!

The level of musicianship was nothing but outstanding, they really are a modern take on the Funk Brothers, capable of playing anything. Captain Kirk Douglas, the guitarist, was in his element striding around the stage and dancing whilst pulling off death defying guitar parts and solos. The Roots aren't just a hip-hop band, they go beyond stratospheric groove music, and my God it was loud!

Perhaps the only thing that bugged me was the bass played on a Susaphone, a kind of elongated Tuba. It was great for a few numbers but got on my nerves as I thought he'd switch to a conventional bass, but alas that was not to be......however it was funny when he suck it over a bouncer's head and blew it hard!!

The set consistent of old, new and unknown stuff, they were constantly re-inventing the wheel. My personal faves were "Here I come," a blistering angular pumping funk-rock rebel rouser with Black Thought hardly pausing for breath. And the wonderful, "Seed" with it's lighter weight summery vibe and feel good factor. Even some cool Fela inspired Afrobeat got in the mix (probably due to Jay-Z staging "Fela The Musical" and it reigniting interest in the genre). ?uestlove was a marvel to watch his drumming was spot on and the duet he did with percussionist F.Knuckles was a welcome relief to the incessant rapping and stadium rock!

This was a long show, over two and half hours, but they certainly denied us no prisoners. A music lesson from one of the world's greatest band's. Leaving no stone unturned they were quite simply a knockout delight!
Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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