It takes a lot to stop Anderson .Paak, and a couple of inches of snow sure ain’t it.
The emcee and drummer took the stage last night at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon, Maryland as part of his Andy’s Beach Club Tour, and brought funky, psychedelic vibes to the DMV. Alongside his band the Free Nationals, Paak transported the crowd from slushy, snow-swept D.C. to the coolest cookout in Malibu. Even a delayed start wasn’t enough to ruin the mood, and the beautiful (if somewhat unremarkable) multi-purpose theatre inside the MGM played host to an evening of soulful and raunchy celebration of hip hop and jazz, the crown jewels of (African) American culture and music.
Candidly, I was on the fence about going to the show. The combination of heavy snow, limited transit options to the National Harbor, and the fact that it was at a casino (ugh) were almost strong enough to put me off. But I’d heard from enough people that I’d be a fool to miss this show, and so I rounded up a few friends and split a $65 Uber out to the suburbs.
Paak came out firing on all cylinders from the first song and evaporated any doubts the audience – myself included – might have had. The drummer, singer, and rapper sits in rarefied air, alongside Bruno Mars and Beyoncé as a musician for whom it is apparently impossible to put on anything besides an amazing show. He was in perpetual motion all throughout the ninety minute set, running across the stage and up to the crowd before retreating to play the drums on an elevated platform, never missing a beat or a verse – or losing his breath. Ably supported by the Free Nationals, his backing band with a distinctive California flair, it was a genre-bending spectacular worthy of any trek.
As crazy as it may seem now, it’s worth remembering that Paak’s career wasn’t always a surefire success. It wasn’t that long ago that he was an anonymous session drummer grafting away on American Idol; now he’s a main draw at shows around the world, from Glastonbury to Coachella and everything in between. There were about 2,200 people in attendance last night – a far cry from the near-empty rooms he was playing to just a few years back. Paak expressed his gratitude and awe throughout the show, and the audience gave it right back to him: the highly diverse and well-dressed crowd danced and sung the whole show, from deep cuts to tracks off of his latest release, Oxnard.
Opener Tayla Parx is also due a special mention for a solid performance and her fantastic rapport with the crowd. Decked out in an outfit Shia Laboeuf would have been proud of, she showed off her vocal and lyrical skills to a small but devoted couple hundred who poured out enough love to make it feel like she was the headliner. Although Parx hasn’t been under the spotlight very long, she has a stellar track record as a songwriter for hire: among many, many hits, she co-wrote both “Thank U, Next” and “My Everything” with Ariana Grande. She was also a major contributor on Oxnard‘s lead single “Tints”, which she performed alongside Paak during the encore. Both performers share a flair for showmanship, storytelling, and outsize stage presence, and they make for natural tour-mates.
As confetti and flashing lights filled the air and Paak broke into another spectacular drum solo to wrap up the show, it was clear to me that the only way is up for the polymathic musician. Yes lawd!