"I told 'em there's no curfew tonight," a staff member of New York City's SOB's—a breeding ground-like venue where legends are claimed to be made— said last night (Feb. 4). "I'm excited to see what this guy does."
Upstairs, people anxiously poured into the venue ready to see on-the-rise singer and new Aftermath signee Anderson .Paak take center stage for his first headlining performance in the Empire State. While opening acts Jay Watts and Marcus Machado kept the sold out crowd idle, .Paak flashed a toothy grin for photos and sipped on hot tea (lubricating his vocal chords like a true musician who's about his craft) rather than swigging the quite inviting ice-cold Jameson his single-digit crew had in tow.
Minutes before gracing the stage, the DJ kept turn up-inducing hits in rotation and gifted a nostalgic West Coast medley of Snoop Dogg's "Ain't No Fun (If The Homies Can't Have None)," Tupac's "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," and Biggie's "Back To Cali" before SZA welcomed the man of the night.
.Paak swayed to the stage, kicking the night off with Malibu cut "The Waters" with his band The Free Nationals. Rocking the hyped crowd with his smooth yet spastic Cali bounce, he transitioned into tracks from his 2014 debut, Venice, where loyal day-one fans proceeded to receive their entire lives, mouthing the lyrics word-for-word. Continuing his set, .Paak, a multi talented musician, ditched his center stage position and played the drums during an acapella version of "The Season/Carry Me," sending the crowd into a riotous roar of applause.
In the following 45 minutes, .Paak would run through his impressive catalog (See: "Silicon Valley," " Might Be," "Come Down," "The Dreamer," "Milk n' Honey"), all while keeping the crowd entertained with his raspy scat, high energy dance moves, and polished drum sounds. Los Angeles native singer-songwriter Sonya Elise surprised all, taking the stage with .Paak to add "Room in Here" to the setlist. Throughout the night, .Paak thanked the the crowd and the city of New York for their warm welcome. On stage, .Paak is ill and brilliantly confident, to the point where it seems as though he's been here before in some other life, commanding everyone's attention in every passing second like a seasoned vet. For the night's closer, the house lights dimmed as .Paak and the Free Nationals had a full-on rage session (complete with flashing neon lights) to the explicit party anthem "Drugs."
Riding the wave of stardom and success from his recently released sophomore album Malibu and inking a deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath, .Paak has got a lot to be cocky about, but the night was one grounded in appreciation from .Paak's "happy to be here" vibes and the sold out crowd's smiling faces, despite the sticky body heat that clouded the venue.
While many are still getting hip to .Paak, the packed house at SOB's only proved that the Oxnard, Calif. native is a budding national treasure that's bound to shake up things in music for the better. And ironically, on the same day we lost a unique voice in music (Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White), we gained one in Anderson .Paak as he put on a great show that even the tough New York City crowd couldn't help but praise with a standing ovation. "This performance was definitely top 10 for SOB'," a photographer gushed as the venue emptied. "No, matter of fact, top 5."
It's safe to say that with Los Angeles and New York riding his bountiful wave, Anderson .Paak is next.