John Legend & The Roots
5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 1, Congo Square Stage
Neo-soul torchbearer John Legend and pioneering hip-hop wrecking crew The Roots count 13 Grammy awards among them. Their 2010 collaborative LP Wake Up!, a collection of socially conscious 1960s and '70s soul covers, garnered a 2011 Grammy for best R&B album. The album revisits protest anthems from artists like Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone and Bill Withers and faithfully reproduces deep grooves in cuts like the hit single "Wake Up Everybody," Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' 1975 soul staple resurrected by Legend's soul-rich crooning and far-out growls. The album posits both a challenge to the music industry for its lack of depth and a reminder of the revolutionary spirit in trying times — a 2011 revival of Gaye's What's Going On with the golden age of hip-hop's sense of urgency. Live, the group explodes with a band dynamic missing from R&B's DJ-centric displays. Legend finds the right players to back him in The Roots, the legendary Philadelphia hip-hop outfit and four-time Grammy winner that worked with artists like Erykah Badu, Cody Chesnutt, Common and Jay-Z. In 2009, the band announced it would stop large-scale tours and keep a regular gig as the house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, where the group, led by founder and always-in-the-pocket drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, showcases both its humor and versatility — whether it's "slow jamming the news" with NBC's Brian Williams or filling in as Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. In 2010, the Roots released How I Got Over, with album guests like Joanna Newsom and My Morning Jacket's Jim James.