mardi, mars 13, 2007

Popcorn Revisited

J. Edward Keyes reviews the Roots and Lupe Fiasco at Nokia Theatre and apparently Lupe had a hell of a time.
It was a few minutes into his set at the Nokia Theatre Times Square Sunday night and Lupe Fiasco was having trouble. The Chicago MC was halfway through a performance of "The Instrumental," one of many great songs from his debut, when his microphone cut out, turning the song into, well, an instrumental. His attempt to rebound with a different number was stymied when his DJ likewise lost power.

Finally, with all problems apparently fixed, Fiasco started his third song. Halfway through its opening verse, the mike went out again.
But most significant is his assessment of the Roots live failing; they no longer play their own music. I want to say it incenses me that they don't perform they own shit in a nod to Shadow and Bleeks Mo' Better Blues exchange excerpted by the roots on an album intro but I'm less incensed than annoyed but my point is that since they long seem to have simultaneously thought themselves both lame and in the vanguard I can see why they might be drawn to unexpected or inventive covers or star studded features in attempts to highlight their musicianship and ecletic tastes or position themselves more in the mainstream. They are a band with an apparent inferiority complex, or maybe its just Quest. And in the past few years they don't seem all that comfortable with themselves or maybe that's just Quest. Obviously Quest is constantly thinking about the Roots legacy, which can be a hindrance and more and more Black Thought (best rap name ever as Toure noted in the 05 P&J), comes across exhausted and long winded. His flow was a lot more endearing, emotive and varied in his early work.
Like Fiasco, the Philadelphia group the Roots also question the values held by many of their contemporaries - in a Roots song, a drug dealer is more likely to end up dead than wealthy. Though they've been a band for 20 years, they have yet to release a bad record. Their most recent, "Game Theory," was a marvel of atmosphere and tone that at times conjured the same grim dystopia as Sly & the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On."

So it was frustrating that headliners the Roots spent much of their time playing other people's songs. They made stop-offs at Bob Dylan, Rakim, Yung Joc and James Brown, all of which made their set feel cluttered and unfocused. When they finally swooped into their own "In the Music," it was breathtaking, a big, menacing number alive with twitching guitars and groaning brass. It was a fleeting moment, but welcome nonetheless.
I'm generally of the opinion that a band should always perform their hits. You ain't got to do all your old shit but you have to hit the stand outs. The Roots should always perform, "Silent Treatment", "What They Do", "You Got Me", "The Next Movement", "The Seed", umm "Clones," which was my shit, and whatever else had a video. What if you went to a Mary concert and she didn't sing "Be Happy" or you went to see Erykah and she didn't sing "Bag Lady?" I've seen the Roots a bunch, the last time on the off night of their hyped 2-night run at Radio City, when instead of drawing on their vast catalogue they let Rahzel beat box for damn near 1/3 of the show. I know there were special circumstances that night, featured performers not showing up, but I was baffled at the bands seeming indifference to the crowd. That was a 'spensive ass show. It was dissapointing.

And just because a list of my favorite Roots songs in loose chronological order (Ursula Rucker and Amiri Baraka joints excluded with a max of three songs from any one album) :

Silent Treatment (Black Thoughts 87 You And Yours Remix)
Dat Skat (slightly edged out "Lazy Afternoon")
What They Do
No Great Pretender (I miss Malik B)
Water (melacholic love letter to Malik B)
In The Music

It was hard not include "The Lesson Pt. 1" since Dice killed his verse but "Proceed", "Silent Treatment" and "Dat Skat" were better songs.

In related news: I recently inherited some money (well actually my Dad's sharing his share of the sale of my late Grandma Eloise' house with me, my mom and my sis), I've got a lot of shit to do and I'm pining for a lazy afternoon.