To be completely honest, I didn’t really care for last year’s Wawa Welcome America concert, presided over by The Roots’ Questlove. Part of the reason was that I was wrong in thinking it would be a Roots’ show, with small sets by the other acts they had on the bill: Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael McDonald, Sara Bareilles and more. Instead, we were treated to a concert featuring The Roots as the world’s most versatile backing band and mildly entertaining, occasionally painful sets by the headliners. And while The Roots’ chameleon-like ability to back any musician on Earth is certainly nothing to laugh at, it’s just not as good as The Roots, the world’s most entertaining live hip hop act by themselves.
Now I fully realize that a show like the Welcome America concert is designed to appeal to a mass audience. I get that. It’s why I didn’t do anything drastic after last year’s show like un-follow Questlove on the Twitter machine. But in this dude’s humble opinion, part of what makes The Roots so dynamic and impressive is how universally appealing they are. With every passing day, The Roots are edging towards Bob Marley’s status in terms of how many different people are fans of them. Call me a Roots’ homer, but I think if you just threw the Roots on stage by themselves (maybe with Dice Raw and someone like Talib Kweli joining them) you’d have a pretty dope show that would appeal to practically everyone. Heck, you could even add John Legend…a little something for the ladies and Temple alums if you want to really make sure you touch all the bases.
This week, the line-up was announced for this year’s Welcome America show and once again, the endlessly busy Questlove is serving as musical director and the Roots will be back on stage. Joining them will be Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates,) Common, Queen Latifah, Joe Jonas and more.
Initial reaction? Well I didn’t even know Queen Latifah was even doing music anymore, I thought she was just doing terrible movies and I’m cool with Hall playing, provided he doesn’t skip “Maneater.” I have no feelings about Joe Jonas, largely because I never developed a particular allegiance to him or either one of his brothers and as for Common, well I guess that’s kind of cool. Is it too early to request “The Light?”
I’m sure the show will be fine and I’m sure it will be fun. The Roots will be tight and consummate professionals because I’m guessing that’s how they wake up in the morning- as consummate professionals. But I’d like to ask just one thing…more Roots please. One or two songs, or even worse, a medley of half of two songs, just isn’t good enough. I want at least five songs (and if one of those could be “Lighthouse” off of undun, that’d be awesome) from The Roots this year. It can be at the beginning, the middle or the end- but at just one point during this whole Welcome to America thing, I’d like to see some semblance of a Roots’ show.
I don’t think that’s asking a lot.
Your move Questlove.
The Wawa Welcome America concert starts at 7pm on July 4th on the Ben Franklin Parkway.