LONG BEACH, California — "Put your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care — now check out this drum solo and scream!"
A few days after Jay-Z surprised music fans by taking the stage at a Phish show (see "Jigga What? Jay-Z Performs With Phish And At Rock Radio Fest Over Weekend"), two acts with hip-hop and jam music at their core kicked off a joint tour that not only featured two multidrummer percussion displays, but plenty of guitar and bass solos to boot.
311, who also infuse elements of hard rock and reggae in their sound, are the kind of chameleonlike band that can tour with almost anybody — Black Eyed Peas, O.A.R. and Something Corporate are among their recent tour mates — and the same can be said of the Roots. Put them together and you have acts with more in common than it might at first seem.
The Roots were the first of the two to perform Tuesday at the ill-equipped Long Beach Arena, which opened only one entry door (resulting in enormous lines) and provided a muddled sound system. And while ?uestlove's bass drum often drowned out Black Thought's rhymes, the band still shined in a 70-minute set far different from last summer's Sprite Liquid Mix Tour (see "Bras, Breakdancers And More Bras ... Pharrell Knows How To Party").
While that show was heavy on the hip-hop, this one had more the vibe of a funk or even blues-band jam session. Black Thought played a minimal role, leading the charge through a few Roots favorites as well as a good portion of "Rapper's Delight," but often took a seat next to ?uestlove's drums to watch his six-piece band go to town.
Guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas (no relation to the actor ... or "Star Trek" character), a new addition to the band, was awe-inspiring during his 10-minute, Jimi-Hendrix-style showcase, and bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard played so entertainingly that you hardly noticed he was alone onstage during his solo.
For the finale, keyboardist Kamal Gray showed off his skills, segueing his solo into the classical piano track of Nas' "I Can."
"We're gonna go through the classics," Black Thought said, setting up a medley that featured Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," N.O.R.E.'s "Nothin' " and Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It."
While the hip-hop covers went over big with the crowd, so did 311's rasta-fied take on the Cure's "Love Song," which the band knocked out early in its two-hour show.
The Omaha, Nebraska, crew opened with "Freak Out" from their 1993 major-label debut and immediately showed their appreciation for the Roots by adding a funk breakdown to the rock tune.
311's set included songs from all seven of their studio albums as well as the new "First Straw," from their just-released Greatest Hits '93-'03. The band delivered a solid dose of their slower material but followed up each one with a more up-beat tune ("You Wouldn't Believe" after "Amber," "Beautiful Disaster" after "Beyond the Gray Sky," etc.).
Chad Sexton's drum solo, which flowed into a drumline routine from the entire band (which one fan dubbed "White Man Group"), came during "Applied Science," which marked a turn in the show toward more aggressive, party numbers.
"This one goes out to our friends in Alien Ant Farm, who are in the house tonight," singer Nick Hexum said, introducing "Unity."
For their encore, after starting with "Creatures (For a While)," Hexum told the crowd that two singers had a major influence on him as a teenager: the Clash's Joe Strummer and Bad Brains' H.R. The latter then strolled onstage to a roar from the crowd (and many confused looks from the younger fans).
"This is H.R.'s song, actually. A lot of people think we wrote it," Hexum said, introducing the weed anthem (and a longtime 311 live favorite) "Who's Got the Herb?" The smell of marijuana then filled the air — another reminder of the similarities between hip-hop and jam bands.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.