The Roots haven’t put out a full-blown album since in 2014, the same year they followed Jimmy Fallon onto The Tonight Show. But the typical constraints of a national television platform that’s broadcasted nightly haven’t stopped Black Thought, Questlove, “Captain” Kirk Douglas, and the rest of the legendary Roots crew from taking their show on the road.
In 2022 alone, they played gigs across North America, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Montreal International Jazz Festival to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago and Afropunk Brooklyn. On New Year’s Eve, The Roots capped off the year with a pair of exemplary performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
From the opening of each show—the first shortly after 7 p.m. PT, the second close to 11 p.m. PT—The Roots ripped right through a 90-minute set that featured a thrilling mix of defining hits and beloved standards from the worlds of funk, jazz, and R&B.
Many a medley made its way around the pitch-perfect winter home of the L.A. Philharmonic, including one at the outset that featured snippets of Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa”. That fed into a riveting run of Roots originals, with “What They Do” winding its way through “Proceed” and “The Next Movement” with a sprinkling of “Looking at the Front Door” by Main Source.
Whether it was Black Thought whipping up whirlwinds of lyrical flow on “Web” and “Here I Come”, Ray Angry honoring Herbie Hancock with notes of “Chameleon” on keytar, or Damon Bryson (a.k.a. “Tuba Gooding Jr.”) going H.A.M. on a cover of Heavy D & The Boyz’s “The Overweight Lovers in the House”, The Roots brought the full gamut of their collective talent to bear on a stage best known for orchestral excellence. Questlove and Stro Elliot were spectacularly steady throughout, and made the most of their time in the spotlight with percussive solos amid a run spun from Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache (Jump On It)”.
The most captivating feature of the night, though, came from Kirk Douglas. In addition to his awe-inspiring array of guitar weeps, he filled a variety of roles with his versatile vocals. Kirk proved more than capable of articulating Erykah Badu’s part on “You Got Me”, Nate Dogg‘s verse on Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive”, Sade’s “Sweet As Taboo”, and Stevie Wonder‘s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” on top of bringing “My Favorite Things” and “Auld Lang Syne” to life for the holidays.
Altogether, The Roots brought a breath of fresh, New Year’s air to Disney Concert Hall for the jubilant crowds who braved the rainy L.A. streets to see hip-hop jazz royalty in action. The crowds—which ran the demographic gamut—could not have been disappointed by what they saw and heard. Better yet, there was nary a down moment during each show, with song begetting song begetting song without pause.
Following their stellar New Year’s Eve performances, The Roots head back to New York City to be by Jimmy Fallon’s side as The Tonight Show returns for 2023. The year ahead, though, figures to be another big one for this Philadelphia-bred bunch. The upcoming calendar already features February dates in San Francisco and Denver, a March trip to Chicago, and a pair of undercard spots at stadium dates in the United Kingdom with Red Hot Chili Peppers in July.
With any luck, The Roots will dot the calendar with plenty more appearances. And maybe, just maybe, these intermittent breaks between shows on the All The Way Live Tour will eventually yield the long-awaited End Game album.
For more on The Roots, including a full list of upcoming tour dates and ticketing details, visit the band’s website.