Californian musician Anderson .Paak’s chief instrument – alongside his various vocal capabilities – is the drums. It makes sense, then, that a Cheeky Andy show is tighter than an extremely tight thing from Tightsville; to excel at percussion you’ve got to have flair, but retain that inner metronome which comprises the spine of the band. Paak’s fluid creativity and rock-solid mental timing made for a phenomenal show at Melbourne’s Festival Hall last night, across all aspects of stagecraft.
Opening with the crooning The Chase from fresh album Oxnard (released just last month), a diaphanous white stage-front drape partially hid .Paak’s elevated drumkit as images of a rising sun and burning embers scorched the musician’s silhouette into view. Sticking to his heavier rap material in the first half of the set, he sauntered straight out in front for WHO R U? and Bubblin’, displaying some hypnotic Chicago footwork echoed by his two backup dancers (one of whom, Cocoa Sarai, provided gorgeous backing vocals throughout). He was back behind the kit for Milk N’ Honey and Kaytranada cover Glowed Up, which he followed with Oxnard stand-out 6 Summers.
Saviers Road was the man’s cue to crowdsurf, which he did with relish, also clawing his way up the west seats while security hovered around underneath like nervy pangolins.
For the show’s second half, we were immersed in the funk that showcases The Free Nationals’ fortes (keys player Ron Tnava Avant in particular, whose agility and imagination is superlative) – Heart Don’t Stand A Chance (the huge single from .Paak’s 2016 Grammy-nommed album Malibu), Beauty & Essex, Anywhere, Trippy, Come Down and Nxworries track Suede saw .Paak at his most easy, with that thousand-sun smile comfortably lighting the dingiest corners of the venue. A marriage proposal or three between fans was met with .Paak’s Oprah impression, but instead of getting cars we were all getting laid. Yes Lawd!
I’d always considered .Paak a dish best served al fresco, but this set proved he’s as comfortable sweeping a closed venue into his kinetic embrace as he is as part of an expansive Laneway or Falls line-up experience. An A-1 performance from a musician whose ideas and talent are almost bursting out of his seams.