Anderson .Paak’s Sydney Show Was The Victory Lap He Deserves
.Paak performs with the confidence of a stadium rock star, no matter what the size of the venue you put him in.
We almost lost Nai Palm for a second there.
Hiatus Kaiyote’s fearless leader announced her diagnosis of breast cancer back in October, and at the end of the year underwent major surgery. “If you’ve got shit to do, then I guess you gotta stick around,” she says to the already-packed Hordern to a rousing cheer.
Guided by her Randy Rhoads signature model guitar and three impeccable backing vocalists, Palm’s soulful voice fills the room — which, at a capacity of over 5000, isn’t an easy thing to do. Overpowering any disinterested talkers, the performance captivates from its opening notes right to the its stunning finale.
Palm and co. infuse the first half of the late David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ with Hiatus Kaiyote’s ‘Breathing Underwater,’ and it’s done masterfully. It’s eerie to think that it was recently three years to the date since Bowie’s passing — and that what killed him is the same thing Palm herself has been battling. Without that context, Palm and her troupe deliver a spectacular opening set. With it, however, it becomes something entirely life-affirming. Long live Nai Palm.
Every time Anderson .Paak returns to Sydney, he needs a bigger room. It makes sense — after all, this is the man who performs with the confidence of a stadium rock star, no matter what the size of the venue you put him in. He’s gotta be the coolest singing drummer ever, too — sure, his only competition might be dags and dorks like Phil Collins and Don Henley, but a win’s a win.
Tonight feels like a victory lap for the wild 2018 that .Paak had, from his sound-system-destroyer ‘Bubblin’ to the Trojan horse political G-funk of ‘Six Summers’ and back again. The newer songs hold a particular vitality in the setlist on account of this being the first time .Paak and co. have played here since they were released — the people on-stage are just as excited to be playing them as we off-stage are to be hearing them.
This is the man who performs with the confidence of a stadium rock star, no matter what the size of the venue you put him in.
Our hero is right at home in whatever direction the show takes, whether he’s out front putting hands in the sky or back behind the kit locking into some serious grooves.
As always he’s flanked by The Free Nationals, and while they’re fully aware of who’s running the show, they still create enough space for one another to get their shit in. ‘Might Be,’ an older slow-jam, segues into a snippet of the song it samples, The Jones Girls’ ‘Who Can I Run To.’
It’s here one of .Paak’s two back-up dancers takes the lead vocal and certifiably kills it. The fact their names aren’t available anywhere online is a travesty, by the way — if anyone knows, please get in touch so they can be credited properly. There’s also plenty of tasty guitar licks, chunky bass-lines and skull-rattling vocoder in the mix for good measure, ensuring that the performance always stays lively.
The encore is a mix of celebration and mourning — the former via ‘Lite Weight’ and its well-timed confetti release, the latter via a tribute to .Paak’s friend, the late Mac Miller.
Their 2016 collaboration ‘Dang!’ is the last song of the night, and while there’s still plenty of movement in the room there’s also barely a dry eye in the house. If only he were still around to see how much his music could bring people together.
In the middle of the first proper working week of the year, .Paak has ensured we’re going into 2019 with gratitude, ambition and energy. It’s the kickstart that we all need.
David James Young is a writer and podcaster who also sang and played drums in his high-school band. He’s not insinuating that he and Anderson .Paak are kindred spirits, but he’s also not not saying that. He tweets at @DJYwrites.
Photo Credit: Mikki Gomez/Live Nation