Only seen the Roots once, and, frankly, they bored me: too much jam, not enough bread, especially considering their reputation as the saviors of live hip-hop. (Then again, the show was at a House of Blues, where drinks cost more than a house, and they played for what must have been at least three hours, so what do I know?) But Phrenology, the Philadelphia act's latest, is full of music that sounds raring to get onstage--not just "The Seed (2.0)," the irrepressibly lively soul-funk jam Cody Chesnutt swung by the studio to lay down, but the spare-ass "Rolling With Heat," the 25-second "!!!!!!!" and the spectral "Sacrifice," which will most likely lack Nelly Furtado's uncharacteristically subtle songbirding Friday at Gypsy Tea Room, but oh well. The bulk of Phrenology's considerable press has described the album as the Roots' entrée into their actual-band phase, but here's where we'll really see. Chesnutt's scheduled to open the show, a slot that'll serve as his own trial by fire, since it's doubtful that any artist since the pre-Geffen Lisa Loeb has gotten the kind of industry attention Chesnutt's earned lately without actually being a part of the industry. His self-released double-disc The Headphone Masterpiece isn't quite, but you've gotta give it up for anyone who can make a splash these days without a terrible amount of help from the powers-that-be. Don't you?
The Roots and Cody Chesnutt perform March 7 at Gypsy Tea Room.