There are few acts in hip hop who can be define in large part by their live performances, but such is the case with The Roots, the Philadelphia based act fronted by MC Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and backed by drummer and co-founder Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson along with Kamal Gray on the keyboard, Frank Knuckles on percussion, Captain Kirk Douglas on guitar and Mark Kelley on bass.
The group - which some younger faces in the audience no doubt now knows as the house band for Jimmy Fallon's late night show on NBC - has produced 13 records and won four Grammys, but their live sets have garnered more acclaim, if such a thing is possible.
Summerfest fans were treated first hand on Day 4 of the Big Gig as the band headlined the Miller Lite Oasis stage. The group lived up to its rep, led by Black Thought's strong vocals.
The Roots have been touring about of late, playing sets in Europe, New York and the Bonaroo festival and a staple of the set list has been a cover of the Beastie Boys classic "Paul Revere" in honor of MCA, who passed away of cancer in early May.
It has been roundly hailed as a fitting tribute ‚Äď and perhaps is expected now by those who have been following the band in that time.
They didn't disappoint, leading off the 90-minute set with the track and dedicating it to MCA and Chuck Brown.
Black Thought made some minor lyrical changes, and the dynamic of the live band made it a unique and fitting tribute.
One of the reasons the band's live show earns such rave reviews is because they're versatile enough to add other covers to their repertoire, and Saturday was no different with Kool And The Gang's "Jungle Boogie."
The crowd went ballistic once the opening chords of Guns N Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" were struck, which after the chorus became a remixed medley of quick covers.
They also give a nod to Led Zepplin with a few chords of "The Immigrant Song."
As with "Paul Revere," the verses and music were purely Roots.
Douglas made Slash - and any guitarist - proud with a solo that raised the temperature to face melting levels.
Yes. I said face melting.
The band just released "Undun" as a collaborative project with Betty Wright called "Betty Wright: The Movie" last fall, but with EP's or studio records dating back to 1993 ‚Äď along with their propensity for covers - they didn't beat the crowd over the head with new material all night.
The group knew what would move not only their diehard fans, but a diverse festival audience.
They sprinkled in instrumental breakdowns, including an exceptional duet between Questlove and Knuckles.
And prior to this show, I could say I'd never seen a sousaphone solo. Incan no longer make such a claim.
When such a high standard is expected of you heading into a show, you're almost kind of wondering if they can live up to it yet again, or if this is the one where they finally crack.
That was definitely not the case. Thought was on his game vocally, their transitions were immaculate and the group's musicianship was impeccable.
It's been a few years since The Roots graced Milwaukee with their presence - they made Saturday night worth the wait.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Jim Owczarski
Published April 27, 2015
Tyler Thornburg has been pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers since 2012, but last year was to be his first as a full-time reliever. He started well, but was then lost for the year with an elbow injury. He is back and healthy at the start of 2015 and hopes to prove, again, that he belongs in the majors.
Published April 23, 2015
Some many call him a question mark in the Milwaukee Brewers lineup, but Khris Davis was feeling confident about himself and the team as the 2015 campaign got underway.
Published April 21, 2015
As the Milwaukee Bucks attempt to lock up a playoff berth in the final few games of the year, second-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is proving to many that he can be a force to be reckoned with. You see the action on the court, now, but it was the lonely hours in the gym before his family arrived from Greece last year that laid the foundation.
Published April 17, 2015
It was one year ago today that former Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl introduced Wes Edens and Marc Lasry to the city of Milwaukee as the new owners of the Bucks franchise. The pair would not, formally, be considered the owners by the league for a few weeks yet - but the press conference on April 16, 2014 signaled the start of a new era. A lot has happened in 365 days. Read on for some of the big moments.
Published April 15, 2015
Jabari Parker hasn't played a game for the Milwaukee Bucks since Dec. 15, 2014, and he may not play another one until that date later this year. Or maybe slightly before. Or after. It's the great on-court unknown for the franchise. But what if he didn't get hurt? It's possible that his injury affected more than just the team - it could've swayed public sentiment regarding the arena.
Published April 13, 2015
As the spotlight widens on the ownership of the Milwaukee Bucks and politicians around the state regarding the construction of a new Downtown arena, the Milwaukee Admirals have been left in the shadows. As of now, there are no plans to have the Admirals as a part of the new multi-purpose arena.
Published April 10, 2015
OnMilwaukee.com Sports Editor Jim Owczarski is taking off on a new adventure, leaving the Cream City after over three years. It's been fun, very memorable, and full of fun people, places, drinks and food. On his way out, he shares with you some of his favorites in all of those categories.
Published April 9, 2015
Believe it or not, we are now closer to a decade removed from Tiger Woods' last major championship than we are to his last run of sustained dominance in the game. The greats, always, lose their edge and become shadows of what they were. But Woods' decline was so sudden, the game hasn't quite yet recovered.
Published April 8, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks aim to create a true urban plan around its new Downtown arena, and the billion dollar concept could have far reaching effects. Read on to see how some in the community feel about the project.
Published April 8, 2015
The ownership of the Milwaukee Bucks officially unveiled the images and the plans for not only a new arena, but for an entertainment district just north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.