O2 Forum Kentish Town – 16th April
“Don’t stop now, keep dreaming”, the adoring crowd chants over and over, urging Anderson .Paak to return to the stage after ‘The Dreamer’, one of many encores. I’m amongst an audience more receptive, responsive and ecstatic then any I’ve experienced before. The love for Anderson .Paak is real, the energy almost unparalleled. His fans know, almost without exception, every word to every song.
The Kentish Town Forum is packed to the rafters, hot with anticipation of his first London show in over a year. The backdrop is a vibrant and animated collage, a clear ode to his Californian home. As he takes to the stage, opening with ‘Come Down’, the roar of cheers just about lifts the roof off.
What follows is an unrelenting and glorious barrage of high energy performance lasting almost two hours; the time flies. The set list focuses on 2016’s album Malibu, with cherry picked selections from 2015’s Venice (‘Luh You’, ‘Miss Right’, ‘Drugs’, ‘Might Be’), Yes Lawd! (‘Lyk Dis’, ‘Get Bigger/Do You Love’) – his project with Knxledge under the alias NxWorries – and ‘Dang’, his track with Mac Miller. The length and breadth of his influences is evident. Anderson .Paak’s sound is a melting pot of soul, funk, hip hop, r&b, house and disco. His vocals are just as they are on record, rich and distinctive. He’s a singer, songwriter, rapper, drummer and producer, and the multi-talented artist makes his drumming prowess known throughout his set, leaping stage left to take a seat at a raised drum kit. At times this doesn’t allow for his vocal to shine through, but we’re too captivated with his playing to care.
An hour in, he disappears off stage, only to appear moments later joined by Syd of The Internet. She launches into Kaytranada produced ‘Girl’, from their 2015 LP Ego Death. Joined by the rest of the band in the latter stages of the song, when they exit .Paak takes a moment to survey the crowd before exhaling, “this is one of my favourite nights man, this shit is crazy!” Many times between songs he stops to big up the Free Nationals band, thanking them and allowing time for some impressive interludes; the keyboardist flits between jazzy riffs and a vocoder.
His stage presence is simultaneously jubilant, confident, humble and sexy. He writhes and gyrates around the stage for a rendition of ‘Might Be’, smirking as “she said bend me over that sink, damn your wish is my will” sends the crowd into a frenzy. “I’ve been on tour with Bruno Mars but it’s so good to be with people that know all the words. This is amazing!” he exclaims, before dedicating his performance of ‘The Bird’ to the audience. He holds the mic out to the crowd multiple times throughout the set, but this crowd doesn’t need a mic; more than once the audience singing drowns out his lead.
The show draws to a close and the entire crowd is bouncing in unison as Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals’ guitarists bound around the stage during ‘Drugs’. He makes his way down to the front barrier and then hurls himself into the throngs to surf the crowd. As the house lights come up and condensation drips from the ceiling, the crowd is totally electric. Anderson .Paak’s return to London is a triumphant feat of exhilaration and fun sophistication.
Photos by Marcel Le Bachelet.