The Roots Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON June 29

The Roots Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON June 29
The Roots' live reputation precedes them, and with good reason: what the septet perform is less a concert than a full-blown hip-hop stage musical, complete with virtuosic instrument performances, epic cover-song medleys, musical soliloquies and crowd sing/clap-a-longs.

In a tented-off rectangle in the middle of Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, the "legendary" Roots crew reached deep into their bag of tricks to bring a sold-out audience of all races, ages and music genre preferences to a joyous boil at this Toronto Jazz Festival performance. The band wasted no time getting energy levels up, opening with a lively take on Phrenology's "Thought @ Work" and, following a foray into their new album with "How I Got Over," delivered their frenzied song-turned-Late Night-theme "Here I Come."

Frontman Black Thought was a true showman, bounding energetically across the stage to ensure each part of the audience was fully engaged in the group's proceedings and, after just two songs, thanking the crowd facetiously: "Thank you, god bless, good night." Of course, the rest of the Roots were no slouches themselves: "Captain" Kirk Douglas windmilled enthusiastically on his guitar, Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson goose-stepped dramatically around the stage, and at two separate — and hilarious — points in the performance, every member except Questlove jumped out from behind their instrument, ran into another band member's spot, then ran back in time to continue the song.

The show was all energy, with a focus on the proficiency of the Roots' members: each got a chance to flex their musical muscles with a solo, especially Captain Kirk, who ran through covers of "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Bad to the Bone" and "Who Do You Love?", all during a break in the middle of the Roots' classic "You Got Me."

To close the show, the band then played back-to-back heavy hitters in the form of a tuba-heavy "Get Busy," which transitioned first through Kool & the Gang's "Jungle Boogie," before slipping into "The Next Movement." The latter elicited the most favourable crowd reaction of the night, until the band returned for an encore performance of "The Seed (2.0)," which easily affirmed the Roots as the greatest live hip-hop act of our generation, if not of all time.