Anderson. Paak keeps the Olympia audience bubblin’

Daniel Cox

YES LAWD! Rapper, drummer and self-anointed ‘Best Teeth in the Game’ Anderson. Paak performed two nights in the Olympia on March 19th and 20th to two sold out crowds. The concerts were part of the artist’s world tour with his band, The Free Nationals, promoting his latest record Oxnard. The 2 nights were potentially the most fun and exciting performances the Olympia has seen in a long time.

Anderson. Paak himself is an artist all to his own genre. Gospel, soul, southern hip-hop, funk, all and more are infused to a heady cocktail in his music.  He’s emerged as a fresh voice in the rap scene. As a drummer as well as a rapper, rhythm is in his blood, and so his songs have a slick coat of funk on them. He can go from the dizzying and technically astonishing ‘Bubblin’’ (which won the Best Rap Performance Grammy 2019) to the buttery smooth ‘Suede’ easily, his infectious charm permeating throughout. All of this means that as a live performer, Paak is a true natural.

The night began with supporting act Tayla Parx, a singer-songwriter who’s a prolific co-writer of several big hits. Parx credits include Panic! At The Disco’s ‘High Hopes’ and Janelle Monaé’s ‘I Like That’. She also helped pen 5 songs off Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’, such as ‘7 rings’ and ‘thank u, next’ itself. Her voice has been popular in the background, and thankfully in the limelight she is a wonderful vocalist by herself. Her playful pop songs were excellent to get the crowd going.

Paak and The Free Nationals entered with a call of Paak’s catchphrase “Yes Lawd!”. The stage had a beautiful set of drums on a centre platform, along with a standing mic in front of the drums. Paak alternated between the two, gleefully interacting with the crowd for one song and then skillfully playing drums the next all throughout the night. He had a wonderfully cheeky smile during the night, bounding up and down the stage and keeping the crowd in tempo at all times. Energy was high, and equally light, the atmosphere was a blend of exhilarating and carefree.

The stage production was well done. The screen behind the band mainly displayed abstract images and muted colours, lots of reds, purples and blues. It maintained visual interest without distracting from the performance. The concert had novelty moments as well, with Paak crowd surfing at one point and a huge burst of white confetti to climax a song near the end of the night.

Sitting at his drum set, band beside him, Paak dedicates the final song to Mac Miller. They play ‘Dang’, a Mac Miller song featuring Paak. Paak was a friend of Miller’s up until his sudden death in September 2018. “I can’t keep losing you, over complications” sung Paak, and as he played on the drums. It was the first time during the night that he wasn’t smiling. The show ended with a picture of the two artists laughing together, a still, sombre end to an explosive performance.

Daniel Cox

Image Credit: Roisin Murphy O’Sullivan