Anderson .Paak @ Alexandra Palace
Arriving onto the London stage on the day of a brand new album announcement and the release of a new single, King James, Anderson .Paak’s sold-out show at Alexandra Palace seems as good a way as any to finish off a busy day in his press calendar. Touring the world off the back of the huge critical and commercial success of his latest full-length Oxnard, the smile etched across Anderson’s face throughout the entirety of tonight’s show as he sings, drums, and dances for the 10,000-strong crowd shows that he is aware as any that things are looking up for this Californian neo-soul man.
Billed as ‘Andy’s Beach Club’, tonight’s show takes us through Paak’s ‘beach series’ of albums (Venice, Malibu, Oxnard and, as of next month, Ventura), a body of work reflecting on Paak’s formative years in California which has seen Paak develop from cult-concern, to Dr. Dre protege, to the cusp of superstardom. One only has to look at the features list of Oxnard (Kendrick, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, J. Cole, Q-Tip) to see to what echelon Anderson .Paak is striving to join.
The show begins with a single spotlight cast over Paak singing and drumming his way through opening song The Chase, every drum fill met with a blast from the smoke and fire cannons that scatter the stage in a sign of the levels of production that are to come. With the last hit of Paak’s snare drum the spotlight is extinguished , and when the light floods back Anderson is front-and-centre stage, dancing his way through Oxnard highlight Who R U?. The ease with which Anderson .Paak regularly transitions from a frontman in the classic mould to a drum-playing singer/band-leader is what really marks him out as a singular figure in today’s music landscape, and the fact that he is able to hold the crowd and maintain the energy of the show from either position proves the extraordinary level of showmanship and charisma that Anderson brings to his performance.
The sheer number of hits and crowd-favourites Paak has managed to accumulate over his three albums would be enviable for any act, and the show manages to maintain its momentum throughout, with the exception of Beauty & Essex. A fantastic song in isolation, this new single from Paak’s backing band The Free Nationals suffers from its demotion of Paak to non-vocalist drummer in this setting.
The set casts its net across all three full-lengths and displays an impressive level of versatility, from the rap-stylings of stand-alone hit, and Grammy award-winning, Bubblin to expertly-crafted slow jams such as Heart Don’t Stand a Chance. The latter provides easily the biggest sing-along of the night, with the crowd almost managing to drown out one of the largest speaker-systems in the United Kingdom, and Paak seems understandably moved at its conclusion.
Towards the end of the set, with the crowd already in raptures, Paak and The Free Nationals swing into Suede, Anderson’s breakout hit from 2015 that first propelled him into the spotlight. Notable for his exclamation of ‘Yes Lawd!’ during each of the song’s choruses, here the words are flashed 10 metres high across the stage and echoed by near-everyone in Alexandra Palace at every utterance. As this is repeated again and again until the conclusion of the song, it dawns that this is a man on the cusp of entering into pop culture itself, an artist with a Grammy-win under his belt and his own certified catchphrase. If the fame of the artists on his feature lists is an indication of the level of success Anderson .Paak is reaching for, then tonight could well prove that he’ll be there soon enough.