Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Legendary Roots Crew rocks Amherst College

(Courtesy MCT)

In front of a sold-out crowd at Amherst College on Saturday, The Legendary Roots Crew performed deftly, impeccably blending in styles from their own collection and influential hits of the past.

The Roots were anything but square, but you couldn’t say that about the audience. Towards the end of the headlining set, a confused crowd didn’t know whether to cheer the act back on stage for an encore or berate them for not continuing to entertain.

Upon arriving at the Lefrak Gymnasium, the entry process and overall aesthetics gave the feel of a junior high school social, without the parent and teacher chaperones. Ticket-holders were asked to separate into gender-specific lines as a slew of volunteers applied wristbands to non-Amherst College students and ushered them into the open hall. The surrounding bleachers folded against the walls and colorful banners raised atop the building’s high vaulted ceilings gave way to recollections of pep rallies and raucous volleyball matches.

The airy auditorium made for a comfortable atmosphere where peach-fuzzed pals and petites could congregate. When the bright gym auditorium cut to darkness and back-lighting cut red onto the stage, the sparse crowd moved in closer, preparing themselves for the opening act Jason Derulo.

Two men fashioning neon-flashing strobe lighted gas masks bopped frenetically across the stage as the young R&B artist pop n’ locked his way to the microphone stand. The three men performed a well-choreographed routine, Derulo pausing at points to belt out the lines to his latest hit singles. But, the fledgling performer may have wanted to stick to dancing as his singing was about as robotic as his maneuvering.

Aside from select circles of giddy girls and a couple of ambitious crowd-surfers, listeners remained unmoved with their hands on their hips and arms by their side. The Chris Brown look-a-like rang out a generic performance of his #1 singles “What’cha Say” and “Sky is the Limit”, addressing the crowd at times about his unfulfilling love life in hopes that the audience would be able to relate.

In an unoriginal move, the singer picked an unsuspecting girl from the front row to be serenaded by an inauthentic love ballad. The girl became terribly flattered as he creepily gripped the microphone inches from her face and groped her with a gratuitous groin movement simulating some sort of gaudy mating ritual.

Derulo seemed to lose pieces to his wardrobe throughout the performance, eventually wearing just a tank-top, until he tore off the sweaty garment and tossed it into the unfortunate audience. His final song “Love Hangover” sobered the crowd, making them wish that they had consumed more alcohol before arriving. The listless audience remained generally unimpressed by the pop-artist until he relived everyone by leaving the stage.

The eclectic live performance of The Legendary Roots Crew did not disappoint as they energetically enacted lengthy jam sessions during some of their most popular hits while cleverly incorporating classic funk, blues and rock hits of the past. The excitable members of the full band paraded around stage giving off a jovial vibe that eventually enlivened an otherwise stiff audience.

With a steadfast rhythm and an unfaltering flow, the veteran emcee Black Thought led The Fifth Dynasty through an array of music styles. The mic grabber meshed hip-hop one-liners and hot-footed James Brown shouts into the already entertaining ensemble. The sounds lent crowd members to snap their fingers like swingers, relax as if in a speak easy and stomp their feet emphatically.

The band’s front-man controlled the microphone for a long-enduring opening flow that cut into the classic Sugarhill Gang tune “Apache” and James Brown’s “Can I Get Some Help” before peaking into the group’s new single “How I Got Over.”

At various points, the musicians became static mid-song, as if in mockery to the stiff-legged crowd, unfreezing themselves to the same positions that they left off. They seemed to be wound up like a plastic kid toy, letting loose wily solos and parading about animatedly.

A jazzy “Mellow My Man” sunk into a dimly-lit drum solo during which drummer ?uestlove and percussionist F. Knuckles took turns matching each other skillfully.

The highlight of the set was a 20-minute long version of the hit “You Got Me.” The group skillfully slipped in and out of the song, intertwining soulful melodies and improvisational prowess.

Electric guitarist Kirk Douglas shone during this section as he skatted masterfully in unison with his own funky guitar licks and led the band in shortened covers of Donna Summers’s “Love To Love You Baby” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine.” The crowd perked up and the band slowed down to a bluesy number, heading back into the main song with a staccato symbol leading into a bass solo by Owen Biddle. The song finished with an abbreviated version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

The group carried on with its classic song covering with Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” before they left the stage to an odd response. Typically, when an act leaves stage, the crowd responds with an encouraging response, hopeful that the artists will return due to their insatiable attitude. In this case, the audience seemed utterly confused, requiring a flashing set of white flood lights to stimulate them to cheer for an encore performance.

Regardless of the questionable crowd conduct, The Roots obliged, perhaps saving their best song for last. The band took stage once again, to the tune of the fan-favorite “The Seed 2.0” and transitioning into the Curtis Mayfield funk jam “Move On Up,” leaving listeners in a vibrant mood.

“Who can top that shit,” Black Thought asked rhetorically, answering his own question by saying “ain’t nobody.” Fittingly, the group left on that note; after all, very few performers, let alone hip-hop artists, could match the versatility and showmanship that they exuded.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected].

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