An hour after doors opened, the Oxnard creator hadn’t appeared but his fans were content — friends were in attendance, all bunched up in groups, but many others seemed to be on dates. Women left their companions on the floor to touch up their hair and makeup in the powder rooms below, but when the intermediate playlist faded for longer than 60 seconds, concertgoers caught it and rushed back to their places on the floor and in the balcony seats above. As the opening chords of “The Chase” blared through the venue, .Paak sat high above on his drum set. Fans screamed in delight.
By the second track, the percussion-driven “Who R U?,” .Paak had come down from his perch and strolled out to the middle of the stage. He wasted no time pivoting and hitting a sideways glide across the platform.
“What’s popping, New York?” The crowd was enamored and .Paak basked in the love. “Told y’all I was coming back to see y’all, but not without the Grammy though!” he declared with a grin before moving into “Bubblin,” the song that earned him a trophy for Best Rap Performance earlier this month.
His live band consisted of one guy on the horn, two guitarists, one keyboardist and two drummers (including .Paak, of course). They were consistent in sound and fluid throughout the evening, even as the artist bounded between songs from his most to least recent projects — clearly the result of having worked together for years.
Perhaps the most impressive part of a live show with Anderson .Paak is witnessing his tireless energy. Several times Friday night, he ran across the stage, jumping up to the elevated drum set to knock out a track or two while belting the lyrics through a propped up microphone. He’d then pop back down to the stage and sing or rap whatever came next.
.Paak had even included his featured verses in his set list. There was a tangible appreciation for his performance of Kaytranada’s “GLOWED UP.” After it ended, .Paak shouted, “Thank you for coming to the ABC Tour. If there’s a time to light up, it’s right now!” It was all he had to say: phones were pulled from back pockets and gleamed toward the ceiling from one end of the ballroom to the next.
The minimal guitar chords of “6 Summers” then revved up as pockets of frat boys pumped their arms to the beat and the crowd screamed in unison: “Trump’s got a lovechild and I hope that bitch is buckwild…” .Paak let off a spastic kick to the rhythm. There’s a couple of lines on the track where a woman strongly reports “The revolution will not be televised, but it will be streamed live…” When those lines ran at the Hammerstein on Friday, .Paak stood centerstage with his fist raised towards the sky. The show had lowkey become a party/activist rally — an interesting sight in midtown Manhattan with a not-so-diverse audience — but it moved forward. He jumped into “Saviers Road,” “Trippy,” NxWorries’ “Suede” and Free Nationals’ “Beauty and Essence” for good measure. He faked the crowd out by leaving three separate times with a “Thank you, New York, good night!” before returning to the stage.
For his final encore, .Paak paid homage to Mac Miller by playing out the entire “Dang!” record from the late rapper’s 2016 LP The Divine Feminine.
“He’s giving us a show,” one young woman was overheard gushing to her girlfriend. “He’s clearly giving us 200% like 20 outta ten,” the friend replied. By the time he left the stage for real, NYC found that overall, Anderson .Paak is an architect of vibes.