Sango Amato


afropunk atl: anderson .paak’s full-moon triumph

October 14, 2019
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There are closing festival sets, and then there are Anderson .Paak‘s closing sets with his band, the Free Nationals, complete with waves of ASMR and a call to howl at the full moon. Even the sign-language interpreter had to buss down at stage-right. Call it what you want, I’m glad .Paak made light of the obvious: white people popped out to AFROPUNK Atlanta for sure! But the sea of Black faces brought him visible joy… the kind that makes him call Musiq Soulchild to perform “Just Friends (Sunny)” out of literally nowhere! (.Paak’s celebratory fist-pump was a prideful sight to see, if one caught it between set changes.)

.Paak and the gang blazed through the midnight hour with the pacing and range that comes from relentless practice, and a commitment (plus ability) to please everyone in sight, without sounding like they’re trying to do so. The Free Nationals will never have trouble accomplishing the goal.

When self-awareness prevails, .Paak masterminds the show by moving across moods — from the Afrocentric, to the psychedelic, to the love-struck, to the loveless, and on. It’s an unending hit parade. Each section came with its own lighting patterns, handcrafted anthems, and even distribution across .Paak’s musical oeuvres. We thrive in all the facets of his essence, and the band always manages to keep things upbeat and afloat, even through weaker concepts and raunchier content. There’s a stinging irony to singing “Suede” while staring at “NO SEXISM,” but alas…damn near everyone was in on it!

The “Dang!” encore — complete with a picture of .Paak and the late Mac Miller in high-definition — threatened to destroy me in the last blinking moment. Prior to this, the celebratory confetti didn’t hit everyone. .Paak apologized for that, and threw his drumsticks. It was Superstar shit.

Sango Amato