Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals take post-Grammy victory lap at the SF Masonic

A man smiles in front of a yellow wall.
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On Feb. 11, Anderson .Paak used the momentum from his recent Grammy win to take a victory lap at the Masonic Center in San Francisco as part of his “Andy’s Beach Club World Tour.” His endless energy and talented band mixed tastefully with the vivacious crowd, making for an immersive performance.

Paak is a rapper, crooner and multi-instrumentalist from Oxnard, California. His music features a tantalizing blend of rap, R&B, soul and pop and his varied style lends itself well to live performances, which have spanned from solo headlining tours through the United States and Europe to supporting acts for worldwide tours like Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic. Despite some poor stylistic choices and technical issues, Paak’s show last Monday stayed true to his outstanding quality as a live act.

After a decent inflatable cacti-laden opening set by pop songwriter and artist Tayla Parx,Paak — and his backing band, the Free Nationals — stood behind a curtain as The Internet’s “Roll (Burbank Funk)” played through the speakers, setting the groovy mood for the remainder of the evening. As the DJ’s music faded out, the drum intro to “The Chase” from Paak’s recent album Oxnard could be heard playing from behind a large translucent curtain through a drum kit on the stage.

As Paak hyped up the crowd with his signature phrase, “Yes Lawd,” the audience’s fervor became quickly apparent. The crowd had come to sing its heart out to every song Paak and his band would play thereafter, leaving no space for the room’s energy to falter. Paak and the Free Nationals welcomed this collective zeal with a calm but lively tone, which reflected their extensive experience in playing concerts.

The Free Nationals’ instrumental expertise showed through — where most hip-hop shows employ backing tracks and DJs who basically press play, rewind and fast forward on their laptops, Paak’s acclaimed band played beautiful live renditions of songs that were made with drum kits and synthesizers in the studio. Paak only deferred to studio vocals in his song’s choruses — he spat every single verse of every single song with effortless confidence.

.Paak then played a trio of high-energy songs — Oxnard banger “Who R U,” the Grammy-winning “Bubblin” and “Milk n’ Honey” from his 2014 debut Venice. His raspy, animated voice carried the band through a plethora of mixed issues that resulted in Paak’s words barely being discernible to the crowd.

The fanatical audience made up for this technical fault by singing its heart out to each track on the set list — from the spacious floor of the Masonic to its huge balcony, fans danced and swayed as .Paak and the Free Nationals commanded the crowd to forget the outside world and engross itself in the music.

A standout performance from the night was a live cover of the song “GLOWED UP” by Kaytranada featuring .Paak. The track’s eclectic beat was here replaced by live synths and booming drums, with Paak’s voice floating over them in a simultaneously soothing and energizing manner. The bouncy crowd refused to relent as the song went on and eventually transitioned into “6 Summers,” the centerpiece song from Oxnard. This politically charged two-part protest anthem filled the auditorium with a solemn-yet-rousing vibe that echoed through the room’s spacious interior.

As the crowd shouted along with Paak and swayed to the lush instrumentation, it became clear that the show was a resounding success. Although the lighting was a tad too bright for a hip-hop concert, and the venue was a bit too large to pack the crowd into one space, the audience’s communitas made up for these suboptimal choices.

The show closed out with a tribute to Mac Miller with a performance of “Dang!,” a 2016 collaboration with Paak. With his eyes closed, Paak whacked his drums, belted out the chorus and let Mac’s verses play through the speakers. The room at once remembered the late rapper’s legacy and honored his connection with the show’s headliner.

Justin Sidhu covers music. Contact him at [email protected].