Anderson. Paak & The Free Nationals // January 10 // Festival Hall, Melbourne

We were lucky enough to score tickets to Anderson .Paak’s sold out sideshow at Festival Hall. The man hailing from Oxnard, California just finished his top-billed headline tour with Falls Festival with his on-stage support band The Free Nationals.

Much anticipation was built as Australia/NZ were his first stops on his Oxnard world tour. A white cloak hung from the ceiling to cover the stage.

Similar to the beginning of the Lion King with The Circle of Life, a graphic of the sunrise appeared on the horizon. Through the embers of the rising sun, Paak’s silhouette appeared on the drum kit, the centrepiece of the layout, as he started with the opening track of Oxnard, The Chase.

It was unveiled here to fans that this would be different to other rap shows. Paak firmly established himself as a talented musician early. A highly skilled singer and drummer, with his widely ranged raspy vocals Paak concurrently tore up the drum kit with heart-racing drum solos.

Pure sweat followed. Relentless, Paak kicked off with his heavier rap material with back-to-back hits such as Milk n’ Honey, Who R U? and Bubblin’ with the cloak making a dramatic drop during Bubblin’, a clear demonstration as to why it was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance.

Along with his musical talent fans were made aware, if they didn’t already know, that Paak can seriously move. From smooth glides across the stage to pulsating Chicago footwork and stage-diving drops the man had everyone dancing from front to back, a difficult thing to do at Festival Hall.

Sitting on the sides at Festival Hall, attendees can feel detached from the gig for the majority of it. Looking through the ropes as if they are prison bars separating them from the energetic mosh pit. As much as they try, the artists find it hard to acknowledge these sections throughout the set as they are rarely in their vision. Being in positions like these can have viewers ponder whether it would’ve been more worthwhile streaming clips of live performances online.

Not this time.

Paak had all sections of Festival Hall eating out of the palm of his hand. Somehow he even managed to hurl himself up onto the ropes separating the seating section from the main floor at the side. Fans on the side felt as involved as the fans right up to the front barricade of the mosh as they swarmed in to get close to the man.

"Paak had all sections of Festival Hall eating out of the palm of his hand."

Throughout the show Paak ensured it was not all about him, giving constant praise to those with him on stage. The Free Nationals, or as Paak prefers to dub them, ‘the best band in the world’, were able to to take the spotlight and play their hit single, Beauty & Essex. The bassist and guitarist of The Free Nationals held centre stage whenever Paak roared on the drum kit. Throughout disco-infused funk songs such as, Am I Wrong, they would even choreograph with Paak.

We were treated to a well spread setlist of material from the California raised rapper’s latest album Oxnard all the way back to his first album in 2014 Venice. Fan favourite and Grammy-nominated album Malibu had its fair share. Even his electronic collaboration with Canadian producer Kaytranada with the certified banger Glowed Up and his side project with Knxwledge under the name Nxworries featured. Festival Hall took shape of a gospel as ‘Yes Lawd!’ was repeatedly echoed during Suede.

Surprises filled the show. One being a test of our lower body strength. During the funkadelic Lite Weight we were requested to get low, before blowing the lid off, confetti bursting everywhere.

To reiterate, Paak shared the praise. As well as those with him, Paak acknowledged those that weren’t with him on stage. After a rousing encore, a touching tribute for Mac Miller took place. Paak took a backwards step as Dang! played, returning to his drum kit whilst Mac’s verses echoed through the speakers. A fitting finish to an incredible set.

The range of Anderson. Paak makes him one of a kind. The combination of hip hop, jazz, disco and funk puts for music lovers an experience you must put on your bucket list. Such is the musical journey that is Anderson. Paak where one second you’re on the sunny coast of California, next you’re in an energised jazz club, then you’re in the best house party in the world. A well deserved headline and sold out tour of Australia/NZ. Fingers crossed we don’t have to wait long for him to return again.

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