[Illustration by FATJEDGFX]
BY MATTHEW HENGEVELD I’ll never understand this. Philadelphia is the home of The Roots, a Grammy-winning and critically acclaimed band. Yet, when the city needs a headliner for its 4th of July celebration, who does it go for? The Goo Goo fucking Dolls. Who even comes up with a name like that for a band? Seriously, who sits down and thinks, “Huh… the Goo Goo Dolls… that is a great name for my band.” The mayor? People who work for the mayor? Regardless, the Roots were shafted, once again. In their beloved hometown of Philadelphia—forced to open for a band called The Goo Goo Dolls.
A predictably over-excited Mayor Michael Nutter introduced the Roots. A barrage of boos and disparaging comments met him upon running onstage. Undoubtedly overworked, and perhaps suffering from a heat stroke, Nutter’s unbridled enthusiasm resulted in a Howard Dean-like yelp— this was the band’s cue to enter the stage. The performance was on par. To the fans of the Goo Goo Dolls — mostly shirtless 20-something males— the Roots must have sounded bass-heavy and unintelligible. In fact, most hip-hop isn’t very good “live.” Lyrics are often garbled. Emcees are notorious for expecting fans to finish every line for them. Seldom, if ever, is a rap-show a musically enlightening event.
The Roots are different. Black Thought realizes when he must be fully clarity incarnate (“How I Got Over”). He also realizes when he can rap at his own, speedy pace (“The Next Movement”). When Thought is speedy, he is much akin to trumpeters of the hard-bop era— you don’t need to know every musical note to realize what he is doing is good. Forgetting that there are children in the audience, Black Thought once drops a mighty F-Bomb mid-song. This prompts the host of the television simulcast, Cecily Tynan, to momentarily stare agape at co-host Rick Williams. Rick didn’t seem to care. Cecily, Channel 6’s meteorologist, was looking fine in her bright red dress, by the way. Damn.
Guest performances from DC Go-Go legend, Chuck Brown, and Chrisette Michele were largely uninspiring. Disinterested listeners ignored Chuck Brown, who was lively throughout his performance. Brown would have worked better in a more intimate setting. Chrisette Michele seemed sleepy; perhaps it was the humidity. She made a terrible Erykah Badu on “You Got Me.” Most impressive was the band’s closing song, a reworking of Kool G. Rap’s “Men at Work” — a five-minute non-stop lyrical onslaught performed at a numbing speed. Black Thought, of course, could not be entirely coherent throughout; but he didn’t miss a line. Few in the audience knew exactly what was going on, but most were clapping anyways. They crowd reminded me of those folk who initially cheered at seeing the space shuttle Challenger explode. You really can’t blame them, because they had no idea what the fuck was going on.