The Roots, Erykah Badu Define ‘Live Show’ at Sold-Out Chicago Performance [Exclusive]
By Brian “Z” Zisook
There is an elemental difference between a ‘concert’ and a ‘show.’ A concert is a rapper in a white t-shirt, followed across the stage by his posse (see also, crew), while a DJ spins two-minute versions of their songs. A show on the other hand is much more than simple posturing; a show means live instrumentation, back-up singers, set design, lighting effects and (unnecessary but always talked-about) outfit changes. In other words, a show is The Roots and Erykah Badu delivering a sold-out performance at the historic Chicago Theatre.
Fresh off the release of their eighth studio album, “Rising Down,” Philadelphia’s Legendary Roots Crew was the show’s opener. Playing to a late-arriving crowd, the seven-man band rifled through songs from their massive catalog of music with a sublime energy. Led by emcee Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, who donned his Yankees fitted cap, there wasn’t a moment during the group’s hour performance that didn’t leave the audience completely enthralled with the musical fireworks exploding in front of them.
Though very little material off their new album was included in the set list, the audience was more than content with the ?uestlove-led crew and their twenty-minute throwback medley, which included oldies like “Apache” by Sugarhill Gang, “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie, and “Everybody Get Up” by Salt ‘N’ Pepa, as well as new school favorites like “This Is Why I’m Hot” by MIMS and “Flashing Lights” by Kanye West.
Photos courtesy of Eric Weiler
Providing most of the on stage energy during the memorable performance was the group’s sousaphone (tuba) player, Damon Bryson, and guitarist, “Captain” Kirk Douglas, both of whom induced standing ovations during their individual solo routines. As ?uestlove explained during his interview with DJBooth in April, “Wherever [Bryson] goes, that’s where the audience reacts. I have him there because he is sort of like the spike in the punch.”
After concluding their set, The Roots exited stage left while the crowd excitedly awaited the star of the evening, Badu, to take center stage. Despite minimal changes to the set, however, the crowd was forced to sit for nearly an hour before Badu’s six-piece band, DJ, and four back-up singers appeared.
Photos courtesy of Eric Weiler
With an array of purple and green lights shimmering behind her, Badu strutted across the stage toward “her crowd,” immediately garnering a half-hearted standing ovation from the capacity audience. During the eclectic singer’s nearly three-hour performance (no, that is not a misprint), the Dallas native performed an assortment of her most popular records from the platinum-plus albums, “Baduizm” and “Mama’s Gun,” as well as newer records from the most recent release, “New Amerykah Part One (4th World War).”
Though her set was full of the kind of raw emotion and passion for that’s rarely seen by performers today, Badu’s unbelievably long act led many in attendance to head towards the exit early. Regardless of the lengths to which concertgoers stayed put in their seats, though, everyone in attendance was treated to undeniably memorable evening. I’ve seen too many concerts, it was good to finally see a show.