Friday, November 19, 1999
Roots redefine the rap show
BY CHRIS VARIAS
No genre of music comes off worse in the live setting than rap. There's usually not much to watch, maybe a couple of guys pacing the stage with microphones in hand while another one stands behind turntables.
And the performances are cliche-riddled: Invariably the emcee invites the crowd to make some noise and throw your hands in the air and waive 'em like you just don't care.
But the Roots do just about everything they can to turn the rap show inside out.
The Philadelphia group put on a sprawling two-hour, 25-minute per formance at Bogart's Wednesday night that had the near-capacity crowd's attention throughout.
The Springsteen-esque length of the performance is unheard of in the world of hip-hop. Keeping the crowd into the whole thing was a virtue. They played their own instruments, another hip-hop rarity. And they play them well, something rap's best-known musicians, the Beastie Boys, sometimes struggle to do.
Yes, there were a few times the band asked the crowd to make some noise and throw their hands in the air and so on. Maybe some cliches die hard. Or maybe they were just the ironic sort, because the crowd needed no cheerleading.
The group did two sets. The first concentrated on the band's original material, beginning with The Roots is Comin' on through Proceed, Mellow My Man, The Next Movement, Ain't Sayin' Nothin' and many more. One song fed immediately to the next, and the pace and energy of this set made it the better of the two.
The second set was looser, featuring a concert cliche embraced by musicians of every musical persuasion the drum solo. The band meandered though several snippets of songs from the old school, including Otis Redding's Hard to Handle, A Tribe Called Quest's Award Tour and the Beastie's Paul Revere.
That was fun, but when they busted out versions of theme songs from shows like The Jeffersons and Cheers after the midnight hour, it was time to call it a night.
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