Anderson .Paak is one of the most gifted, charismatic, and outrageously underrated artists out there right now; he showed all of these qualities and more at this concert. Fresh off of his win at the Grammy awards for best rap performance in his high octane banger, “Bubblin’,” Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals embarked on their 2019 tour.
The opening act, Tayla Parx, is a hyper-contemporary female vocalist with an impressive CV, having worked with and written for many popular artists such as J Cole and Ariana Grande. She herself has a soulful style of singing and a very powerful, impressive range. Her songs themselves, however, were not always fitting of this. She used backing tracks, which are notorious for resulting in very muddy sub bass and overly compressed sound quality in general. Regardless, she had a few very energetic songs with infectious hooks that got the crowd moving in anticipation for .Paak and the Free Nats. She later returned to the stage to sing “Tints” with .Paak, as she did on his SNL performance in December of 2018.
After the obligatory half hour gap that all headliners so courteously leave after the set of their opener, the lights dimmed and the vocals to “The Chase,” the first track off of his latest LP, Oxnard, started playing. Soon enough, he kicked off with his momentous drum fills and crash hits followed by his intricate but steady beat. What amazed me the most, especially on a song that requires not only a lot of speed but also consistency and syncopation, was that . Paak was able to deliver a phenomenal performance both in terms of his playing and his rapping and singing. He is among the best out there in both departments, even when he is doing both at the same time. The plurality of songs in the set was understandably from his latest LP, although he did play “Milk n’ Honey” and even “Might Be” from Venice along with a handful of tracks from his incredible sophomore album, Malibu. It was easy to tell that the crowd gravitated towards these songs the most, with almost everybody in the crowd seeming to have memorized every word. The crowd was on their feet during the entirety of the show, which is something that doesn’t happen very much; this is a testament not just to the undeniable quality of his catalog, but also to his and the Free Nationals’ ability to masterfully adapt these studio recordings into a live setting. They incorporated elements of jazz and even rock, leaving the audience with a fresh perspective on these songs. The Free Nationals also played their own debut single, “Beauty and Essex,” while . Paak took a short break.
This concert also featured one of the most touching moments of any live performance ever. To close the show, .Paak and the Free Nationals started playing Mac Miller’s “Dang!” from his 2016 album The Divine Feminine. I was expecting them to just jam over this, as the song’s feel and progression would suit a series of solos from the musicians, which would be a great way to conclude the show. However, the whole crowd erupted once Mac Miller’s first verse was coming through the speakers. They played the whole song along to him. It was a moment of equal joy and grief. Each time Anderson .Paak sung the refrain, I became more aware of these lyrics’ double meaning in light of Mac’s tragic passing and his close friendship with .Paak. It was so sad but so beautiful to hear .Paak pay tribute to someone who he truly loved. At the very end, a picture of Mac and Anderson appeared on the big screen as .Paak closed with a very simple remark: “Mac Miller Forever.” I’ve never seen or heard anything like it, and I’m still not over how incredibly special and poignant that moment was. I certainly did not expect to end the night with tears streaming down my face. This was an unforgettable way to end a great performance.
RIP Mac Miller.