Anderson .Paak is a man of his word.
When he hit the stage on Monday night at San Francisco’s Masonic, .Paak’s first priority was to remind the sold-out crowd that he always keeps his promises.
“I told y’all I’d be back,” he said, “but I didn’t know I’d be back with a Grammy!”
Indeed, the first night of .Paak’s world tour to support his latest album, Oxnard, arrived only a day after the artist took home his first Grammy for Best Rap Performance for “Bubblin.” Despite the fact that .Paak’s win was actually a rare tie — he shared the honors with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, and James Blake for the latter artists’ Black Panther soundtrack cut “King’s Dead” — he seemed mighty comfortable with the spotlight shining solely on him.
Prior to .Paak’s arrival, the evening began in a troubling manner as a logistical nightmare was inflicted on fans eager to enter the Masonic. Seemingly hapless security staff directed patrons to literally walk in circles, form and reform lines, and then abandon the whole procedure when it came time to queue for the metal detectors. It’s a testament to how amazing .Paak’s performance was that no one was grumbling about this disaster at night’s end.
Credit must also be paid to opener Tayla Parx, who took the stage flanked only by a few inflatable cactuses. As a credited co-writer of Ariana Grande’s recent supernova single, “Thank U, Next,” Parx clearly has an ear for catchy tunes that straddle the line between pop and R&B. While her set was short, it most definitely infected a somewhat disgruntled crowd with a badly needed dose of good vibes.
Anderson .Paak was only too happy to keep the party going when he greeted the crowd in an outfit that might best be described as André 3000’s take on Hunter S. Thompson. Playing with his seasoned live band, the Free Nationals, .Paak was equally at home jumping into the crowd to spit verses and perched atop his drum kit that towered above his bandmates.
After running through tracks from last year’s Oxnard, his aforementioned 2016 breakthrough, Malibu, and 2014’s Venice, .Paak opted to close things out by paying tribute to the late Mac Miller. Before his death at the age of 26 last September, Miller and .Paak had collaborated on the track “DANG!”, which served as the night’s final song. Watching .Paak keep the beat on his drums while Miller’s vocals filled the Masonic was a touching moment.
Make no mistake — drumming is no gimmick for .Paak. Each time he sat down to crash his cymbals or snap his snare, it wasn’t a parlor trick but an integral part of the beat being created live on stage. The whole effect was joyous, with .Paak sprinting back and forth throughout his 70-minute performance. It’s plausible the crowd at the Masonic was the beneficiary of seeing him not only fresh off a Grammy win but also on the first night of a tour that will eventually take him across the U.S. and Europe this year.
However, it’s more likely that this is just who .Paak is.
See enough concerts and you’ll start to notice the nuances that separate a stage smile from its authentic counterpart. It’s the difference between looking happy because you’re supposed to and beaming because you can’t help it. When it comes to Anderson .Paak, the dude truly can’t stop himself from radiating with well-earned pride and honest gratitude for what he’s accomplished. After releasing two albums under the moniker Breezy Lovejoy, he’s found his niche with a laidback blend of funk, soul, and authentic reflection.
If the fact that tickets for Monday’s show sold-out almost the instant they went on sale wasn’t proof enough of how beloved the Malibu maestro is quickly becoming, watching as fans throughout the venue mouthed every lyric was compelling proof that despite his chill demeanor, .Paak should be dreaming big.