Getting down with the Roots

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There are few concerts where I’m waiting for a tuba solo. The sousaphone tooting Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson is only one reason the Roots performing live are electric, memorable and leave the crowds wanting more.

The Roots returned to Atlantic City Friday, Dec. 28 marking my third time seeing the Philadelphia-born hip-hop group in town. After seeing them live in 2008, the band instantly reached the top of my favorite live acts and I vowed to see them perform whenever possible. Before the show began, I said to my friend, “Keep an eye on the tuba player – he will blow your mind.”

Since forming in the early 90s, the Roots have incorporated jazz and soul by focusing on the instrumental aspect of their music. The heartbeat of the band is drummer ?uestlove (pronounced Questlove). Questlove is multi-talented, a DJ and with his uber-cool style and wit is appropriately the co-bandleader when the group acts as house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. While Questlove watches his back, the smooth and fast rapping MC and front man Black Thought is an incredibly energetic presence that is contagious on stage.

Rounding out the band are Kamal Gray on keyboards, percussionist F. Knuckles, guitarist "Captain' Kirk Douglas and bassist Mark Kelley. Together, they are an unstoppable force that makes their shows personal and powerful.

The last time I saw the Roots was at the amazingly intimate Music Box at the Borgata Hotel and Casino when Jimmy Fallon opened for the band and joined them for a song. This time, the band hit another local stage after an opening act played for an hour. I would love to give that band a shout out for creating the perfect vibe for the show and for the drummer who refused to stop playing when stage lights came up signifying the time to cut; but the venue never acknowledged the band.

There really is no secret to the success of the Roots live performances. Like all the great live bands, the Roots have an extensive collection and amazingly talented musicians that test their limits to the benefit of the audience.

The show started with the appropriate "Table of Contents, Part 1," and continued with endless enthusiasm through 20 songs. They followed up with, "Double Trouble," another song from the 1999 album "Things Fall Apart."

After performing "Star," Douglas showed off a bit of his extensive skill by soloing during "Love of My Life," and accompanied his guitar notes with his voice.

I always tell people that even if you're not a fan of the Roots, seeing them live is an entirely different experience that can offer something for any music fan. After playing "Get Busy," the transition into "Jungle Boogie," by Kool & the Gang definitely got the crowd moving.

Fans of the band could tell how deep into its catalog songs were pulled from – ranging from Right On," from 2010's "How I Got Over," and "Clones" from "Illadelph Halflife," released in 1996.

The band really ramped up its force with "Rising Up," "The Next Movement" and "Step Into the Realm" before slowing it down to the classic Roots jam, "Proceed."

There are ton of people on stage when the band plays and Friday included Dice Raw who jumped in on "The Lesson." Tuba Gooding Jr. made his presence known like a stampede by soloing on another classically cool Roots tune "Mellow My Man." The guy never seems to stop moving or dancing with a tuba on his shoulder and he nearly steals the show at every Roots concert. At the Music Box, he jumped into the crowd and danced up the aisle. It took more than a few steps to get going but he ran back down to the stage, jumped up and got right back into the beat. Although the stage was a little high to perform the same type of athletic feat, the tuba took control and didn't disappoint.

I say he nearly stole the show, again, because after performing "Break You Off," Douglas went off again on "You Got Me," shredding the fretboard, playing behind his head and almost one-upped his bandmate with his showmanship. At one point during the show, he balanced himself on Questlove’s bass drum and played in his face to close out a solo.

The band made sure to cram in some favorites like "How I Got Over" and "The Seed" before ending with a Curtis Mayfield cover of "Move On Up," and closed the show with "Men at Work," by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo.

After the show, my friend who had never seen the band live said, "That was amazing!"

And - that's why they are sometimes called The Legendary Roots Crew. These boys are serious about their craft and will weave a musical tapestry laced with old favorites and musical excellence. If you have the means, I highly recommend checking them out. 

Did you go to the show? Tweet me your favorite moment @DBCurrent #TheHighNote

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