Electric, infectious and down right groovy. These are the only three words that could possibly describe the energy R&B’s golden boy, Anderson .Paak and the Free Nats brought to Houston House of Blues this past Wednesday night.
Kicking off the night, Canadian bred producer and multi-instrumentalist Pomo warmed up the growing crowd with bouncy beats like, “So Fine” and “Start Again” that gently fluttered in and out of focus. As his set continued, the crowd moved from a quiet hesitancy and settled into a comfortable groove. A few takeaway moments from Pomo’s hour long set included his remix of Rihanna’s “Kiss it Better,” Kali Uchi’s “Riding Round” and the incredibly sleek, “Cherry Funk” that includes fellow Canadian neighbor Kaytranada. Pomo created a chilled out atmosphere that complimented what would occur in the following hours.
At around 9pm, London’s own Little Simz stepped out to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” asking us if we were ready for what she was about to bring to the stage. Performing songs from her 2015 release, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, Simz quick tongue, rhythmic production and entrancing presence had the crowd following her every move.
Simz showcased her impressive range and ability to fluctuate the room’s energy, through introspective tracks like “Wings” and “God Bless Mary” to her stand out banger, “Dead Body,” which had the crowd jumping until the ground shook. One of the most intimate moments between the crowd and herself was when she grabbed her guitar and strummed a bluesy melody on top of a syncopated production, this could draw comparisons to King Krule but Little Simz’ acoustic pairing felt a bit more heartwarming and sincere.
It was easy to see that Little Simz is a star in the making and without a doubt she left her mark in Houston and left with a couple of new fans. She’s definitely someone we should be keeping our eyes on.
While waiting for .Paak and the Free Nat’s to step out there was a palpable tension present in the air, everyone was anxious to see what these Californian boys had in store for us. Finally around 10:30pm, Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals took the stage and were greeted with a chorus of YES LAWD’s. Opening with two of the swankiest tracks from Venice, “Milk N’ Honey” and “Drugs” kicked the night into high gear and proved the crowd’s sentiments correct. Standing over us in a green and yellow patterned knit, .Paak flashed a smile knowing he had us in the palm of his hand.
Houston, its been too long!!
Shifting from center stage to behind a drum set throughout the night would seem like a tiring act, but .Paak bounced back and forth with a bright smile and just as much energy to match. With a setlist filled to the brim with tracks from his January release, Malibu, .Paak and the Free Nats gave us a little bit of everything: Rock, 90’s R&B, Soul and a whole lot of funk. Moving from breezy bangers like, “Glowed Up” to sincere moments like “The Bird,” this felt less like a show and more like an experience the crowd was strung along to witness. To no one’s surprise for an entire 75 minutes, not a single person wasn’t jumping, dancing or catching every lyric he spat.
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals closed out their set with the disco-central, “Am I Wrong” starting out behind the mic and somehow ending up behind his drum set one last time. “You look so beautiful tonight, I just wanna see yall dance!” .Paak urged from behind his drum set, everyone knew the night was coming to a close so they danced as hard as they could and snapped the last few moments. There’s an eminent star power Anderson .Paak holds and by the looks of how he handled the stage Wednesday night this won’t be his last time leaving crowds begging for more.
Be sure to follow Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals on Twitter and catch them at ACL Weekend 2 this year!!
By Kris Valladares