Viewers get to see The Roots perform nightly on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, but rarely do they get to see the legendary hip-hop band play original music with help from musical icons like Erykah Badu and Chaka Khan.
Tuesday night, the Roots did all that and more. Backed by the local 50-piece orchestra, Dallas Pops, the group infused new magic into its catalog of classic hip-hop tunes, re-establishing their place as one of the best bands in modern history during The Roots: A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop at Toyota Music Factory in Irving.
The concert was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, ladies and gentlemen, so here's hoping you were able to see it.
The event was the third in a series of concerts nationwide put on by TCG Entertainment and Live Nation, and it was also streamed in real time on Amazon Music's Twitch channel — though watching online likely didn't capture the grandeur of the live experience.
From the moment The Roots and Dallas Pops kicked off with "Web," their collective sound reached every corner the 4,000-seat venue. Throughout most of the three-hour show, the band and the orchestra worked together, bringing a magnificence to tracks like "Concerto of the Desperado," during which string, brass and wind instruments built momentum like a roll of thunder or a cresting wave. Sometimes, the orchestra was so spot-on, you might have mistaken their performance for a backing track. They nailed "Break You Off" with ease, making the already-sultry, instrument-driven track even smoother.
In other instances, though, The Roots and their 50-piece accompaniment assumed individual roles in the performance. Dallas Pops seamlessly carried the transitions between songs and prepped empty spaces for The Roots to jump into solos.
If one area could've been improved, it would be the stage's setup. From many seats inside the Music Factory, the orchestra was hidden behind The Roots. Had they been elevated or set up on tiers, much of the live audience could have avoided looking at the massive video screens to see them perform. After all, part of the magic of this type of event is witnessing the music being made.
The Roots, of course, had many moments to shine on their own. Before a show intermission, members took turns showcasing what they do best, from guitarist Kirk Douglas' shredding solo to an endlessly energetic performance by Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson. Percussion maestro Stro Elliott played an entire drum and piano duet on music software Ableton Live controller during his chance in the spotlight. Needless to say, the crowd was on its feet most of the evening.
But the night wasn't just about its hosting band. The Roots invited several A-list guests to join the party, including jazz pianist Robert Glasper, singer Bilal and soulstress Erykah Badu. The bands took Badu's tracks "20 Feet Tall" and "Afro Blue" for a spin, before launching into the classic Roots collaboration "You Got Me." Badu was on her most animated behavior, playfully throwing a towel in Glasper's face and shaking her booty on her way off the stage.
But no one was prepared for a surprise appearance by icon Chaka Khan, who brought the entire audience to its feet in an instant. As she effortlessly worked her way through "Earth Song" and others, it was undeniable that her voice hasn't aged a day. The disco queen was flawless.
So many details played into the success of Tuesday's Symphonic Night of Hip Hop, but perhaps the best was that attendees didn't need to be students of music to enjoy the show. They didn't need to to be able to name every instrument on stage or identify the crescendos (though those were hard to miss). They simply needed an appreciation of music and a curiosity to take it all in. Those who bought tickets were rewarded tenfold.
See more pictures of the concert below:
CORRECTION, 11:37 a.m, Oct. 18, 2017: An earlier version of story incorrectly stated this concert was put on by Amazon Music and Live Nation.