The Roots just came to Seattle, playing two nights at The Showbox at the Market. Fortunately for me, Emily got me tickets for Christmas. It was an amazing three hour show. The encore alone included a 30something minute long medley that featured Roots songs and covers (from Guns & Roses to Led Zeppelin), and during which the band expended more energy than any other band I’ve seen does in their entire set. Here are three impressions I came away with after the show. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I imagine no one really wants to read 3000 words of my thoughts about the show.
1. ?uestlove is a genius.
I love The Roots. I think that even with, or perhaps because of, all their popularity as Fallon’s band, they are a wildly under-appreciated and underrated band. During their concerts, they take the whole thing to a new level.
The engine/heart/curator/director/producer/brain behind it all is ?uestlove. He is a remarkable bandleader, which is why they are such a skilled and contagiously fun live act. Yet, his direction is always subtle. He is constantly creating contexts for other people to shine. He never leads the band by shouting or making big gestures to make sure everyone knows who is in charge, but simply has a second microphone at his kit that only feeds to the rest of the band and to the folks controlling the levels. Through this he refines each moment of the performance, keeping the band on point, and directing the sound board based on the main feed he gets through his headphones.
It’s hard to find anything more fun than a Roots show, and ?uestlove is the primary reason for that.
2. The Roots Are the Happiest Band on Earth
It’s great how perfectly The Roots fit as Jimmy Fallon’s band. Jimmy Fallon’s greatest strength, from his famous SNL breaking to his philosophy as a late night host, is that he is such an infectiously joyful person who wants the world to laugh with him. The Roots are exactly like that live.
They certainly don’t subscribe any sort of pollyanna, let’s all stay in denial, bullshit sort of mindset. They are socially conscious, they are inspiring, they see the world for what it is. They are also the happiest band in show business. Throughout a set they are constantly cracking each other up, trying to throw each other off, dancing, smiling, and otherwise loving life. The Roots appear to genuinely enjoy each other, and playing music. That feeling impacts the crowd in the best possible way, even the security guards were dancing and laughing by the end. It genuinely makes me want to continue to learn/relearn how to dance and laugh and play in more areas of my life.
3. The Roots Are So Fucking Inspiring
I already touched on this above, but The Roots are so beautifully inspiring. They make me want to fight and strive and change. Black Thought, who by the way is obscenely underrated as an emcee, always brings such a beautiful mix of honesty, vulnerability, swagger, inspiration, anger, and hope in his rhymes.
Particularly inspiring to me at the moment is “The Fire.” It’s a bit obvious and straightforward, but beautiful just the same. Anyway, obvious and straightforward is exactly what I need to inspire me right now.
When you’re a clinically depressed insomniac who often feels like his entire life is full of failure and weakness, being able to rhyme along with a line like /’Cause I’m the definition of tragedy turned triumph/ is nothing short of an oasis.
/There’s something in your heart/And it’s in your eyes/It’s the fire, inside you/Let it burn/