ATLANTIC CITY - The Roots are getting pretty good at moving in.
Friday marked the beginning of the Philly-centric hip-hop group's residency at Borgata Resort Casino - this from the group that serves as the house band on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
So think of Friday's show at the Music Box as a house party, one of many such house parties the group will hold here.
The new neighbors seemed to enjoy themselves, swaying and dancing and waving their hands throughout the concert.
Luckily for the Roots, they didn't have to move too far for their new home.
The group formed in Philadelphia and works in New York City, so Atlantic City proves a natural triangle of musicality.
The show opened with a string of old-school classics - MC Black Thought called it "Hip-Hop 101."
First lesson? Run DMC's "Come on Everybody," followed by some NWA, and with that sentence you know that the show covered all the bases of a well-studied hip-hop show.
Midway through a stripped-down "Come on Everybody," as a couple of guys rhymed into the mic and drumming virtuoso ?uestlove kept the beat, the rest of the Roots crew - nearly a dozen strong - walked on-stage.
If John Philip Sousa wanted to start a hip-hop group, he would create the Roots. They have eclectic, Grammy-winning, genre-busting talent.
And one of the members, a guy nicknamed "Tuba Gooding Jr.," stomps across stage with a Sousaphone slung over his shoulder.
It's one of those instruments reserved for high-school marching bands, not rap and hip-hop groups. Can you imagine a Wu-Tang concert featuring a Sousaphone?
NWA? Run DMC?
Sure, those groups are great. But they're not the Roots, not this … cool. That's why you were so worried when they joined Fallon's show - the Roots are that group you don't want everyone to know about.
They get too big and the secret's out and they lose little slices of edge and uniqueness. You don't want America to recognize them as Fallon's house band, because they're so different from the standard house band, so much more than that.
And they contain a Sousaphone player!
And they played "Apache" - y'know, the "Tonto, jump on it!" song - and the audience danced and jived. Yes, the neighbors enjoyed themselves.
To clarify the residency thing, it's not as if the Roots are performing eight nights in a row or something - they're not. It's more of a concert series than residency. But they'll be coming back regularly, each time with a new guest.
Ironically, Friday's guest, rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, didn't need any instruments when he took the stage an hour into the show. A human beatbox, Fresh "Bee-bee bop bee-bee'd" into the mic, allowing the Roots to take a break.
The group's MC, Black Thought, always looks like he needs a break but never sounds like it. Sweat pours from his face and neck, like he just ran a triathlon. And his mouth did.
An hour into the show Black Thought walked off stage -- "peace out two fingers - and the band stood frozen behind him, instruments in air, shadows overcoming the stage … and you just knew the concert wasn't over.
And, oh, it wasn't.
So the Roots finished the song, Black Thought walked away, with band frozen once again … Black Thought walked back, spotlight on the MC … and the band's frozen for a minute before they start playing again.
And then they broke into "Here I Come," one of their signature hits from the 2006 album "Game Theory," one of those loopy, fast-paced tracks that rents space in your brain if you listen to it two or three times consecutively.
Renting? Yes, the Roots are good at moving in.
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