DJ Questlove took a break from his usual spot behind the drums on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” to play a set at The Howard Theatre on Jan. 16. Jon Horvath, of the D.C. based Fort Knox Five, performed an opening set.
Hovarath immediately set the mood for the night, beginning with a reggae version of Lorde’s “Royals.” His mixes transitioned smoothly from one to the other and got the crowd moving. A lot of his songs were well-known covers of classic or contemporary hits mixed with traditional beats. Some of the songs he played included a jazz version of “Imagine” by John Lennon, “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays remixed and Jackson 5.
After Horvath’s lengthy, genre-bending two hour set, DJ Questlove took the stage and crowd responded immediately. Questlove’s undeniable understanding of the crowd was made clear through the music. It was as if he had chosen a list of favorite bands and was playing a better version of their best songs. He played songs ranging from 1970’s hits to recent releases. Whenever there seemed to be a lull in the audience, he changed the song and people started roaring again.
Questlove incorporated themes with his different mixes. He played late ‘90s R&B and, when he could sense the audience was growing tired of it, switched seamlessly to contemporary rap and hip-hop - only to blend into 1970’s reggae. The crowd danced for the entire set, even when DJ stopped to talk to the audience about the mix he was about to play. While the transitions from song to song were not as smooth as Horvath’s, Questlove’s set contained a certain energy that few performances possess.
It was obvious that the songs and mixes were chosen with the greatest care. Questlove understands music and connecting to his audiences on a level most artists work for years to achieve. Questlove was trying to convey something to his audience and took his time doing it.