Houston Sees a Flawless Anderson .Paak at House of Blues

Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals, Little Simz, Pomo
House of Blues
June 22, 2016

You know that weird, audible hum you hear after shows? You normally hear it after a performer either blows your mind or does something that you’re going to talk about on social media the next day. Not even a few minutes after Anderson .Paak and his band the Free Nationals left the stage Wednesday did that hum arise from the ashes. It lingered among the few who still stood around and conversed inside House of Blues. They milled about, but their conversations weren’t about Uber pools or late-night eating options, oh no. They were about .Paak and the high of his standing-room-only show starting to wear off.

“Why didn’t he perform “Animals?” one twentysomething murmured. Her introduction to .Paak apparently came from his show-stealing turn on Dr. Dre’s Compton album. “Why didn’t he perform more from Venice,” another person asked. “That was my shit too!”

Well, .Paak wound up performing one cut from his Venice debut, the high energy, mosh if you want “Drugs." The rest filtered through a web that covered January's lauded Malibu release as well as his “Glowed Up” cut from Montreal producer KAYTRANADA’s 99c album. He would play front man and bandleader, occasionally shifting from the microphone to behind the drums and smashing out big combinations and playing to the groove.

“Houston, it’s been too long!” he said, acting as if his voice would wrap around us like a motherly hug. “I’m on that Hendrix gin if anybody’s wondering. Hey, can I get all the ladies to move up to the front?”

The crowd obliged, if not begrudgingly. Women love Anderson .Paak just as much as men do, and the men who probably belted out “YES LAWD” more often than .Paak did himself weren’t exactly prepared to shift their position in favor of the fairer sex. Nevertheless, .Paak’s 75-minute set bore no time for rest. Even when .Paak wanted to pause to deliver a few inspirational words, the Free Nationals jokingly played Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” underneath him in a way of planned annoyance.

“Now I’m mad,” .Paak jokingly fumed before launching into the hard drum stabs and kick of Malibu’s “Come Down." The added touch of having a keyboardist who could switch into ’80s-era Zapp with an Auto-Tune microphone was special. It added to an already epic record in “The Waters” sans BJ The Chicago Kid and floated on top of others.

I’ve long found it hard to actually quantify what you can consider .Paak to be. He raps, certainly, but he also sings within the staccato of a furious disciple of James Brown. The California kid could tell a story about how his mother bought his first pair of Jordans, an extension from “The Season/Carry Me,” and then also launch into a near Prince-level mode of sexual operandi in “Silicon Valley."

An Anderson .Paak show should be considered the prelude to whatever late-night activity you and a lover, a potential lover or someone you’re lusting over get into. There’s slow grooves, a nasty fist-pumping closer in “Am I Wrong” morphed into David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” and a little more. Plus, it never hurts with Little Simz, the UK-born rapper/singer can turn into a guitar-wielding dynamo who can make her voice squelch and motivate the men of the 300 if necessary. The fun thing about her is that she’s just a fan like us at the end of the day. In the middle of .Paak’s rousing set, I caught her a few feet away, belting out lyrics to “Suede” and “The Bird” as if she doesn’t see this every night already.

Two sentences is selling her a bit short. She definitely has next. Whenever it may be. She can conquer big stages for certain. As for the headliner, he’s already navigated his career into festival darling. A flawless Wednesday night show only adds to his legend. Yes Lawd.

Coachella Freestyle
Milk N’ Honey
The Season/Carry Me
Put me Thru
Heart Don’t Stand a Chance
Room In Here
Come Down
Without You
The Waters
Lite Weight
Glowed Up
Luh You
Miss Right
Silicon Valley
The Bird
Am I Wrong/Let’s Dance

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell