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Issue 1084

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The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton, London 10/07/15

The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15
The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15 The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15 The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15 The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15 The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15 The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15 The Roots: O2 Academy Brixton 10/07/15

The Roots arenât your typical hip hop act: Boasting legendary MC Black Thought and producer/drummer extraordinaire Ahmir âQuestloveâ Thompson, you canât argue with their credentials.

But seeing band member Damon Bryson bounding around the stage carrying a huge sousaphone exemplifies that this is an act that likes to do things differently. Sometimes restrained, sometimes blasting the Brixton Academy audience with sound, the bandâs versatility was amply on show as they played their first UK show for two years.

They have two concept albums, two live albums and numerous award winners, including classics âIlladelph Halflifeâ, âThings Fall Apartâ and âHow I Got Overâ under their belts. So one of the big decisions faced was which material to leave out, as much as what to include. It was interesting that the band didnât perform anything from latest release ââ¦And Then You Shoot Your Cousinâ, choosing instead to stick to tried and trusted material.

Such is their status that Jeru The Damaja and Rodney P were also on the line-up, both delivering solid sets. Watching Jeru perform classic âCome Cleanâ before the main act was a massive bonus for the audience.

The Roots have plenty of quality material to draw upon, with âThe Next Movementâ, âStep Into The Realmâ and âDynamiteâ featuring early on. Black Thought has long been, in my eyes, criminally under-rated as a rapper.

Each time Iâve seen him live â this was the third â heâs been flawless. The main obstacle he faced was the sound quality in the venue. At times it sounded echoey, and there were several moments when the band struggled with levels, making the vocals sound distorted. But you couldnât fault the energy on the stage.

âThe Fireâ, from 2010âs âHow I Got Overâ went down well with the crowd, then a lengthy drum interlude showed Questlove at his best. The obligatory rendition of âYou Got Meâ drew huge applause from the audience. And guitarist âCaptainâ Kirk Douglas stepped up as the show went on, leading the group through a rendition of âSweet Child OâMineâ before a sprawling, energetic performance of âThe Seed 2.0â.

The Roots are an act not to be missed. They may have been around â albeit with a changing line-up â since the late 80s, and may pay their bills these days as the house band on a US talk show, but make no mistake that they put everything into their shows on those rare occasions they do take to the stage in the UK.

PHOTOS: DAVE BURKE
Words Dave Burke

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