8 Seconds Saloon
Monday, July 24
Hardcore hip-hop heads were in the presence of greatness last Monday night at 8 Seconds Saloon, where The Roots headlined a dense, high-energy show. For nearly four hours, the sold-out crowd was treated to a mini music festival of sorts, with old-school rap and hip-hop from old and new acts.
California old-schoolers the Pharcyde started the show, with classics from their albums from the early ’90s. Remaining members Bootie Brown and Imani spit hard and fast rhymes during their short set, hyping the audience with classics like “Passing Me By.”
Israeli hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari was next, and her set was a change of pace, if not attitude. The diminutive musician rocked original material, as well as several of the hit songs on which she’s been featured, such as Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity” and “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West.
But the real draw was The Roots, who started their set with brand new material from their Aug. 29 release, Game Theory. From drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson’s opening drum assault until their encore, the group hardly paused to take a breath during their nearly three-hour performance and rarely lost step. A rock-show atmosphere was created with extended drum, bass and guitar solos; while sometimes over-long, each solo allowed the audience to hear just how accomplished each musician is. A mid-show duel between guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas and ?uestlove was spontaneous, but lightning fast and flawless.
Douglas said that The Roots’ impeccable timing is simply organic.
“We do a lot of practice on stage in front of people,” he said during an after-show chat. “Each show gives us time to experiment. We keep the stuff that works, and we don’t keep the stuff that doesn’t work.”
Despite playing songs from nearly all of their albums, the energy of the show didn’t lag until near the end, when they played an odd, somewhat disjointed medley of old soul and hip-hop songs by other artists. After the show, each member of the band chatted with a small group of audience members, and answered questions graciously and thoughtfully. ?uestlove was found near the stage entrance, signing autographs and recommending books on black music to a fan.
“It’s just part of the job,” he said. “But it’s late, and we gotta get up at 5 a.m. The show’s still not over, though.”