What draws most fans to The Roots is the appearance of improvisation, jazz reflections and the all out jam mosaic that forms when the notes come together.
On Sunday at The Ogden Theater, the vibe was less improv and more succinct, with everything from the choreography to water breaks carefully planned. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it’s clear their time performing nightly as the backing band of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has infused a practiced nuance into their live shows.
Songs like “The Next Movement” highlighted what makes The Roots an incredible live band. They can isolate percussion, guitar, tuba, vocals from Black Thought, keys and the like, making each element the star of the show. Impressively, Black Thought didn’t seem to miss a rhyme through tracks from “How I Go Over,” to “When the People Cheer” and “Right On.”
Drummer Quest Love turned in some next-level percussion antics during a J-Dilla tribute section. “The Fire” went over better with guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas at the microphone than John Legend’s feature on the album.
Some in the crowd could be overheard saying the show felt too staged, but that’s not entirely surprising. When you’ve got a man with a tuba jumping around on stage, one MC sweating his face off, a producer on an MPC, order is all-but necessary.
While many artists claim to live in the moment, The Roots excel when they’re allowed to simply create a moment. For 90 minutes , they gave the Ogden something close to perfection.