Thundercat is nothing short of a nerd. With lyrics paying homage to Mortal Kombat, the galaxy’s inner workings and his appropriately named cat — Turbo Tron over 9000 baby Jesus Sally uzi clip — the artist praises his niche interests through jazz, set to the sound of smooth bass lines crossing the Milky Way galaxy.
With these quirks at hand, Thundercat walked onto the red-lit stage at the Fox Theater last Friday. Pairing his cream-colored fleece jacket with a prominent bubblegum pink bass, Thundercat was prepared for a night of crooning, swooning and plenty of tributes.
Friday’s performance brought the same vivacity that Thundercat brings to his hefty internet cult following. He remained punchy throughout the night, staying on top of his bass lines without letting a single beat drop across his wide repertoire of tracks. The sheer intricacy of complicated passages in his yet-to-be released track, “Interstellar Love,” left many audience members’ mouths agape, spinning the crowd into a frenzy.
Many of the high-energy songs were interwoven with the delicate tension of ballads such as “Unrequited Love,” with the fade-out leading into more beat-based songs such as “Them Changes.” The passionate performance of this track, as well as Thundercat’s other well-known works, caused the whole crowd to break out into body rolls, side sways and playful laughs — if they were not already doing so, of course.
To speak to his comedic side, Thundercat called upon his opener, Guapdad 4000, to humor the “Dragonball Durag” atmosphere and lead an onstage tutorial on how to tie a durag, one of the same purple and orange hues seen in the track’s music video. Thundercat’s cult following emerged in full force with the song “A Fan’s Mail (Trong Song Suite II),” on which small, beckoning meows lead into the lyrics. The crowd followed suit with feline mimicry, many meowing in a similar style, sticking out their tongues and forming cat ears with their hands.
In turning-point moments of somber reflection, Thundercat called for the elated celebration of music industry leaders who have recently passed. Before playing “Interstellar Love,” which felt quite early on in his set, the artist stepped out of the spotlight to draw attention to jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, who had died earlier on the same day as the concert. It was commendable that Thundercat’s humility prompted him to muse on the late jazz giant, before honoring Tyner with an interpretation of his classic sound.
As expected, Thundercat also paid tribute to his close comrade, Mac Miller, dedicating “Them Changes” to the rap icon. Thundercat noted that Miller would always be getting down in the wings of a venue when it was played, and a sentiment of intense emotion washed over the crowd. Hearts broke in Miller’s memory, but the collective remembrance turned into an animated celebration of life when Thundercat began to crank out the track’s signature bass line.
Thundercat then played his part of “What’s the Use?” but tactfully left out the lyrics, originally sung by Miller, to remind his audience of the massive loss the industry faced with Miller’s passing. It was the perfect way to celebrate Miller’s influence on the world and Thundercat’s career, and rounded out the set with such overwhelming, emotional depth.
The audience would not let Thundercat and his crew leave so easily, however, and began to hungrily chant for more. As Thundercat and his two bandmates came back onstage, with no introduction, they broke out into “Oh Sheit It’s X.” The crowd had been asking for this song all night, holding up their fingers in “X” shapes. Thundercat played the high energy piece with massive zeal, finishing out the night with his fluid groove, snappy lyrics and, of course, the talent that sent the crowd into other-wordly dimensions.
Highlights: “Interstellar Love,” “Them Changes,” “Friend Zone”