last night's gig

Five Things We Learned at Last Night’s Awesome Roots Show

The irrepressible Bobby Brown.

1. Bobby Brown is alive! And might actually be the more stable ex-member of the Houston-Brown marriage. The weather-beaten Lothario was the penultimate surprise guest at last night’s Hennessy Artistry event at Cipriani Wall Street, and his appearance was met with rabid nostalgia. Brown, whose voice is grainy but still recognizable, zipped through “Roni,” “My Prerogative,” and “Every Little Step” with much zest, and made it offstage without a hint of a meltdown — which is more, unfortunately, than can be said for Whitney’s shows last year. (To be fair, the bar is much lower for Bobby — he’s less of an icon, and he doesn’t have to hold those crazy notes.)

2. The Roots might be the world’s greatest cover band. They handled mini-greatest-hits sets by Brown, Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip), the Isley Brothers (Ronald Isley), Eve, Erykah Badu, and Mary J. Blige with ease. You could probably jump up onstage with them right now and ask for karaoke versions of “In Da Club” followed by “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me” without a problem.

3. Erykah Badu has evolved a wonderfully enigmatic persona. Is she a space cadet, is she extremely odd, or is she playing the role of a haughty Egyptian goddess? Last night was the latest in a series of eccentric stage appearances for Badu this year, and featured her best outfit yet: a blonde bowl wig, a thick brown-striped dress matched with white-striped tights, and fabulous gold wings attached to her wrists.

4. Ronald Isley has an excellent gold-brocaded cane. And a hip-hop band covering classic R&B songs (“Between the Sheets,” “Footsteps in the Dark”) that supplied instantly recognizable samples for classic hip-hop hits is a neat concept.

5. We are now ready for a full-on nineties hip-hop revue. How about adding De La Soul, Brand Nubian, and Mase to last night’s lineup?

Ms. Badu.

Five Things We Learned at Last Night’s Awesome Roots Show