TO Jazz Review: The Roots, June 29, Toronto Star Stage

Toronto – If I had to sum up the show The Roots put on last Tuesday at Nathan Phillips Square in one word, it would be “Wow!”. If I had two words at my disposal, it would be “Holy Crap!” The band brought an energy that I haven’t seen in quite some time to an audience that was feeling every ounce of it, and sending it right back at them. No matter how you cut it, The Roots, The Roots, The Roots were on fire.

After recently releasing their latest album How I Got Over, you’d think the band would be playing a healthy dose of new material. It was refreshing to see that they were more interested in putting together a kickass live show. The influences of the night came from all over the map. From “Sweet Child of Mine” to “Jungle Boogie”. From a tribute to Fela Kuti (Nigerian Afrobeat), to some sweet Curtis Mayfield funk. The band demonstrated great versatility and managed the transitions oh so smoothly while keeping the energy pegged at 11 for the nearly two hour set.

No matter how you cut it, The Roots, The Roots, The Roots were on fire.

The Roots fuses intellectual lyrics and hip hop with elements of jazz and funk. The band was tight as they wove their way through their set with confidence and dare I say bravado. The live wires of the night were easily guitarist Kirk Douglas, a.k.a. “The String Assassin” and sousaphonist Damon Bryson, a.k.a. “Tuba Gooding Jr.”  They got down from the stage several times to get down and jump up with the crowd. The sousaphone was amazing. Seeing Damon play awoke a deep-seated longing within me that I didn’t even know existed: I want to be a sousaphone player in a hip hop band. I never knew such a thing was possible.

I’ve never given a show a 5 star review before. I was thinking about that in the tent. A great live show consists of a few key elements: the energy the musicians bring to the table, their talents and abilities, and the amount of love that the crowd is sending back to them. As I rocked out in the tent, it occurred to me that The Roots had all of that in spades. Live music just doesn’t get better than this.

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival