Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

SXSW 2016: Anderson .Paak

With two days and nights to go, we have a clear winner in Austin, Texas

Everybody dance! Anderson Paak in action. Photo: Adam Kissick for NPR

Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 15:04


It’s hard to know where Anderson .Paak is getting the time to sleep this week. Every single day when you look at the list of gigs around town, you’ll find his name on the list at least twice or three times per day. The dude is doing SXSW like a boss and it’s paying off because the word of mouth about the show is growing and growing. It’s in stark contrast, as Paak notes wryly, to last year when very few people were digging him when he was in town. I remember that there were few other than the commited heads around for what Paak and Knxwledge were doing as NxWorries at the Stones Throw showcase.

But while Paak’s earlier release “Venice” was a great record, his new one “Malibu” is a heck of an album. Of course, there’s also the Dr Dre connection from last year’s “Compton” album – don’t ever underestimate the power of the Doc – but “Malibu” is a stunner and it gets under your skin. Those hooks, those riffs, those great lines, those killer melodies: every song hits right between the ears.

Live, though, Paak is in a whole different league. He is a confident, exuberent, stunning frontman, jumping from dancing his way across the stage to playing the drums and back again with ease. His band The Free Nationals are top players but you can’t take your eyes off the boy. The songs from “Malibu” get new light and heft in the live setting too: you begin to hear different nuances and new subtleties within material that you thought you knew like the back of your hand because of how many times you’ve played the record at this stage. So good you want to go back and see him again so it’s a good job then that he’s playing again (and again and again). Star power.