The Roots Throw Down at Jeep Heroes Tailgate

Philly's finest take New Orleans before the big game

the roots new orleans
Ian Witlen
The Roots performs during the Jeep Heroes Tailgate party in New Orleans.
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The circus surrounding the Super Bowl was often a glamorous affair, so much so that the game seemed to be overshadowed by Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake and the other marquee talent performing around New Orleans. The Jeep Heroes Tailgate, hosted by Rolling Stone Sunday afternoon at Generations Hall, put the game back in focus as guests traded their sport coats, dress shoes and tight party dresses for team colors. Guys wearing Ray Lewis and Frank Gore jerseys drank together at the bar while the Roots Crew entertained, first with a DJ set by Questlove, then an explosive show by the Roots that hit as hard as the game itself.

Questlove the DJ spent an hour-plus on a joyride through the history of rock, pop and soul. Instead of trying to outcool anybody with obscure grooves, his repertoire included Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message," Michael Jackson's "Rockin' Robin," Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne." That broad embrace of popular music carried over to the Roots' set, which drew on the breadth of African-American music, at times in the same song.

Photos: Jeep Heroes Tailgate With the Roots

They began with a nod to New Orleans as the band second-lined from the back of the venue to the stage accompanied by Philly-based horn section Brass Heaven. They opened with the J.B.'s "Gimme Some More," then their own "Double Trouble," showcasing for the first time in the set (but not the last) Black Thought's lyrical dexterity as he fired off the lines he traded with Mos Def on record.

The show changed gears when it segued from "Get Busy" to Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie." From that point on, the band became more ambitious and more referential as it moved from musical thought to thought. An adventurous jazz piano solo over a swinging groove gave way to a tube solo egged on by Questlove on his high-hat. The Roots built that into a go-go moment, then the slinky "Break You Off" from 2008's Phrenology.

The band continued in that eclectic mode for an hour and a half. "Capt." Kirk Douglas led a guitar-drven black rock section that started with a verse and chorus of "Sweet Child o' Mine" and referenced "Mannish Boy" and "Who Do You Love?" before reaching its dizzying conclusion. They segued almost seamlessly from "The Immigrant Song" into dub into the Sugarhill Gang's "Apache." They revisited James Brown's false ending gag in what felt like the end of the set, only to go on the Philly soul-flavored "The Seed 2.0," Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" and another 20 minutes of music.

When the Roots second-lined off stage, it was hard to ask for more. This party was over, but Generations Hall was the site of a San Francisco 49ers post-game party, and the band was scheduled to play that as well.