HOLLYWOOD, California — On Saturday night, the eve of the 53rd Grammy Awards, the [artist id="775"]Roots[/artist] were unstoppable, unpredictable and unprecedented as they took the stage to perform their seventh annual Pre-Grammy Jam Session. But to call the event just a jam session would be quite the understatement. Similar to the years prior, the Roots played for hours on end, covering every genre of music from the blues to hip-hop to funk and rock and roll while inviting fellow musician friends — both old school and new — onstage.
“Every Jam Session you expect the unexpected,” explained drummer ?uestlove when MTV News caught up with him just before his band took the stage. “We invited a whole bunch of people down and we are going to see how good our memory banks are when they start putting us on the spot and asking us for their songs.”
For the first time, the Roots decided to switch up locations, leaving the Key Club behind in favor of Hollywood’s Music Box club. The venue provided a larger space for more fans and celebrities, such as Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis and Craig Robinson, who opted to attend this more laidback event rather than the exclusive Clive Davis Pre-Grammy party taking place close by.
Just a few minutes before midnight, Roots pal/boss Jimmy Fallon appeared onstage sitting solo in a stool, doing his best Neil Young impersonation as he sang the lyrics to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” — a hilarious skit he’s been known to do on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Upon finishing, he welcomed the audience to the event and urged everyone to get excited as the Roots made their entrance.
Check out photos of Jimmy Fallon’s performance at the Roots’ Jam Session.
“My show has been on for two years now and it wouldn’t be where it is today without these guys,” Fallon gushed as he and Roots rapper Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter suddenly broke into a rendition of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” while the crowd cheered. Shortly after the comical warm-up, Fallon exited the stage and the Roots kicked things off with some of their known tracks — “Going On,” “How I Got Over” and “Here I Come.” The first special guest to appear was 10-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin. Black Thought praised the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” singer as a “funk percussionist” while he free-styled and skittle-le-bopped around stage.
Roughly around 12:30 a.m., Sarah Bareilles joined the unpredictable set list, seeming to take the crowd by surprise. But once the pop songstress started singing “Son of a Preacher Man,” the audience quickly took to her soulful side. The Roots then introduced Guy Sebastian, a soulful singer from Australia whose recent blooper clip as a judge on the “X Factor” was made famous when ?uestlove remixed it on “Late Night.”
As the show went on, with the crowd seeming to grow from 300 to 500 people, the Roots began to introduce some of the old-school performers. Chuck Brown, a.k.a. the Godfather of Go-Go, came out in full funk getup and busted out with the classic “Bustin’ Loose.” Young Chris performed two songs, including “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” Too Short made an appearance and treated the crowd to “Blow the Whistle,” while blues legend Taj Mahal, Lalah Hathaway, Booker T. Jones and Betty Wright all added a little something to this incredible night. And while the audience certainly was grooving to these performers, things really perked up when Black Thought called up to the stage the “Queen Diva” herself, Chaka Khan. Cameras were clicking and phones were held in the air while the R&B legend sang “Tell Me Something Good.”
In between acts, the Roots never forgot to steer the focus back to themselves, as they mixed things up by providing solo sessions throughout the night. One bandmember who never disappoints is metal maniac Captain Kirk Douglas, who ripped through his guitar solos while giving the audience a taste of some rock and roll classics like Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” and Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”
Even at 2 a.m., guests continued to roll onto the stage. Estelle, Ne-Yo, Ryan Leslie and Melanie Fiona all performed hit after hit after hit. And while there didn’t seem to be an end to the Roots’ jam session, fans didn’t appear to mind one bit. While most of the industry was giving it a rest with music’s biggest night less than 24 hours away, attendees of this bash were rewarded for their stamina. ?uestlove needn’t have worried — the Roots proved that their memory banks were well up to par.
Don’t miss “Snooki & Sway: Live From the Grammys,” a red-carpet live stream kicking off tonight at 6 p.m. ET on MTV.com. And stick with us all Grammy night for coverage of the red carpet, the show, the afterparties and beyond!