Anderson .Paak sure knows how to utilize all of the space that he’s given. Making his headlining debut at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night (May 30), he spent practically all of the 90-minute set rotating between banging on the drums and dancing up and down the stage like a collegiate drum major strutting across the field, save for a microphone in tow rather than a mace. He climbed the stairs of the set to return to his drum kit so frequently that he probably logged enough steps for everyone in the building, yet he didn’t show the slightest sign of fatigue — or if he did, there was certainly no way to see it, as his eyes stayed hidden behind a massive pair of sunglasses throughout the whole show.
The 33-year-old is toting two full-length albums on his Best Teef in the Game tour, with Oxnard and Ventura having dropped in November 2018 and April 2019, respectively. With such a wide array of songs to choose from, there was little need for .Paak to dilly-dally with small talk between cuts — he didn’t even introduce himself or his backing band, The Free Nationals, until after the seventh song of the set. When he did pause for conversation, they were either brief niceties or to give a quick exclamation of his signature “Yes Lawd!” call before launching into another hit.
Even with two new albums to draw on, .Paak worked in loose singles (“Bubblin”), notable features (“Glowed Up”), and tracks from previous works, like the Grammy-nominated Malibu, over the course of the night. Only one of the last six songs from the set came from Oxnard or Ventura (“Come Home” from the latter), closing the evening with a ScHoolboy Q-absent rendition of “Am I Wrong,” before returning with an encore performance of “Dang!,” paying tribute to the late Mac Miller. He also remembered Nipsey Hussle earlier in the night at the conclusion of “The Waters,” drawing a simultaneously somber yet rousing round of applause from the crowd.
The night cemented .Paak’s status as a star, if you needed further convincing. Flashing the tour’s namesake often, he exuded more than enough confidence and gusto to keep a packed MSG crowd dancing from start to finish. “I hope y’all had the time of your lives tonight,” he said through heavy breathing after taking yet another trip up the stairs to the kit sitting on the elevated portion of the stage. “I know I did.” For someone who has worked for years in the shadows of names like Dr. Dre, .Paak is reveling in the spotlight.