The entire set for Roots Manuva’s tour date at the Concorde 2 could be a representation of two sides of popular music. On one hand, it’s serious business, and on the other, pure hedonistic fun. Roots starts the night as a figure to revere, dressed in a black suit and bowler hat, contrasted by a red bow tie and accompanied by a dark green jacket. He could be a parody of a teacher, and his famous lyrical talent gives the air of a learned man on the mic. As the band moves into the second set, he loses the hat and jacket, visibly relaxing, showing a more fun, comedic character.
For the first set, kicked off by ‘Here we Go Again’ from his latest album, 4everevolution, much of the energy comes from his live band, and two very charismatic accompanying vocalists. The term “backing singers” doesn’t do justice to the amount of rapping, singing and crowd pleasing these two guys do. Acting more like accompanying frontmen, they’re an extension of Roots’ persona. The band, a live drum kit, DJ, keyboards and guitarist along with his two accompanying vocalists keep the energy on stage flowing out into the crowd. Roots himself is an oasis of confident charm, grounding the performance and somehow channelling the energy by way of his sophisticated charisma. There’s no escaping the fact that the whole world, for this evening at least, revolves around one man.
Then the set ends, the band leave the stage and the lights go down. The crowd noise swells up to a deafening level in such a channelled venue and the band comes back on, kicking up the groove for the first track of the second set. This time Roots bounds back on stage, performing windmills with one arm in time to the music, taking on an entirely new, fun persona. As though he’s been storing everything up, biding his time so he can blow us away with everything now.
The second set is where the fun factor of popular music diffuses through the atmosphere. To make quite a sweeping statement about the contrasting sets, the music switches from a serious Brixton vibe to become more recognisably Reggae and Caribbean. Funnily enough, although we’re there to see Roots, the highlight of the second set for me was the song ‘Move ya shoulder’ performed by one of the accompanying vocalists: Seanie T feat Roots.