All Points West Pt 2 – K’naan, Roots, Radiohead – Liberty State Park, 08/09/08

The good stuff! (remember, all photos are selects from the huge, crazy-great This Week in New York full photo sets on flickr)
5pm: Somali hiphop artist and about-to-be world music star K’naan took the smallest of the three stages, with probably the biggest backstory of the festival.
Ck out his Wikipedia entry, his myspace page, and his own website (www.dustyfoot.com) cause his journey from Mogadishu, Somalia, to the UN, to Harlem, to Ontario is worth it.

After “the African Way,” K’naan admitted that his recent Lollapalooza appearance, he entirely forgot the whole second verse of a song, only to see the front row of dedicated young fans mouthing the correct words in disdain, as he “made some stuff up. . . hey, I recorded that album, like four years ago”

His stage presence is remarkably relaxed, direct, and intimate; his lyrics are fierce, poetic, and intricate. The small but dedicated crowd was treated to several tunes from his upcoming album, Troubaour, and his neat explanation of the original 11c. French troubadours, with whom he feels a bond.

He admitted that the album is supposed to come out in September. “but it won’t,” he said with a smile. “because I haven’t finished it.” The album was recorded at Bob Marley’s old house in Jamaica, where K’naan talked about feeling the amazing spiritual vibe, and features contributions by Ziggy Marley and Junior Gong–probably along with other Marley offspring, with whom K’naan is close, sharing not only Marley style but also dedication to the ideals of Bob.

Tunes from Troubaour included the upfront “I Come Prepared,” the plea to “Take a Minute,” and “abcs”–available now, free somewhere via some kind of special telephone download. Many were punctuated w/some crazy street sounds and whooping sirens, courtesy of dj One Tyme, who used to spin behind reggae/dancehall fave Elephant Man.

Exhorting the crowd to sing along “ha hey” to some Somali prompts, K’naan kind of gave up in despair at the enthusiastic but rhthym-challenged response. He finished up with the beautiful “Waving Flag” [“they call me freedom . . . just like a waving flag”] and returned for an encore of his worldwide hit “Soobax.”

7:30 The Roots on the second largest stage. Un-f*cking believable. The Roots play with all live orchestration, and Black Thought rips it up onstage with breathtakingly deft raps over insanely great work by the band. Here he is with ?uestlove on drums

Guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas played with the tunes, the beats, and the kind of cocky self-assured mastery that you get only . . . when you’re actually a master. From jazzy bits of “Favorite Things” to the opening to Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” it seemed like Douglas channeled every African American guitar hero from Jimi Hendrix to Robert Johnson from his giant cranium into his taut, live-wire body.

On the sousaphone, “Tuba Gooding, Jr.” postured like he was vying for Class Clown in the yearbook but played like a man who knows the power of the large horn like a bass, adding some serious weight on the beat to the very body-cavity thumping lines coming out of the speakers. Heavy, man. and funny as hell at the same time.

The Roots ended with a brilliant frenzy of jazz, rock, R’n’B, TSOP, synths and more in perfect synch with the crowd. Without a doubt, they were the best live performance of the show, melding moment-by-moment improv brilliance with the mounting crowd excitement, feeding one off the other to show how live music should be done.

8:30 Radiohead This is how live music IS done, when you are one of the most popular, cerebral, and venerated bands of the decade playing to about 50,000+ people in an outdoor field with no raked seating, no natural amphitheater, and no room. I always feel like Radiohead’s stuff is kinda chamber music for rock fans, capable of being both intellectually and emotionally huge yet incredibly personal and searingly intimate at once. They seem an odd match for an outdoor megafestival, yet Thom Yorke’s quirky posturings and spamodic, nerdly dance moves manage to translate strangely well via multiscreen monitors and their justly celebrated and very sophisticated light show.

Opening with Reckoner, they played (this is not a set list) Kid A, You’re All I Need, Nude (no remixes!) We are fishes, Wakey Wakey, No Surprises, Bangers and Mash, among much else. Occasionally calling to mind the chill of Pink Floyd, they nonetheless managed to communicate with the crowd despite practically no banter, except when Yorke screwed up Videotape. They ended with two encores, including Pyramid Song and Fake Plastic Trees.

then, once again meek and bleating, we sheep, denuded, shorn of our cash, tired and used . . . we humbly lined up for an almost two-hour wait to get on the ferries. for a 15-minute ride.

but for nine hours of music, a sunny day, and the Roots and Radiohead, it was worth it.
And re; Pt. 1: well, nyah, nyah, border guard — despite your best efforts, I didn’t give the corporate masters any cash, for I didn’t buy ANY food – i had managed to sneak some granola bars and a Milky Way in, after all ; )

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