It’s been quite a while since Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals came and played in Bangkok for the first time, and I’m still getting over it. I think I fell in the same category as many who attended the Monday night concert. I like Anderson Paak. I like his music. I know and love some of his songs, but not all. I was happy to hear he was coming and I excitedly made my way to the show. But I was in no way prepared for what was going to happen.
I rushed from across town to the venue but unfortunately missed the opening acts, R&B act DJYP and rap-focused act JUU, which was a shame as I heard good things about their performances. From what I heard though, these were both good examples of quite relatively unknown indie/experimental acts that Have You Heard? gave the opportunity to play on a stage much bigger than what they are normally used to, which is typical of Have You Heard? and something I think is great about them. I’ve seen this at many of their gigs and think it’s great that they give an avenue to the local indie scene in this way.
I like Anderson Paak. I like his music. I know and love some of his songs, but not all. I was happy to hear he was coming and I excitedly made my way to the show. But I was in no way prepared for what was going to happen.
Voice Space was packed and the anticipation was palpable, with almost everyone in the main hall as Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals began their set. From the very first moment, as “Andy” made his way onto the stage with a wide smile, moving in fake slow motion into the center for dramatic effect, you could tell that he was up for it, ready to create an unforgettable experience.
They got things started at a very high intensity with Come Down and basically just didn’t let the energy level drop until the very end of the show. From the very first line everyone was moving, everyone had their hands up, a smile on their face, enjoying the moment with their friends. His energy was beyond infectious to the point where it felt like everyone in the room was feeling and moving the same way he was.
The crowd loved the first song and they continued with The Next Episode, a Dr. Dre cover, taking a long intro to further hype the crowd so that by the time the first lyrics dropped it was just mayhem. Seriously, an entire song of complete, organized mayhem that felt very, very good to be a part of.
After the song finished Anderson took the opportunity to say hello to the audience and then slowed it down a tad with The Waters, followed by Glowed Up, a Kaytranada cover that he sang on. Next up was Bubblin’, clearly the favorite song of much of the audience, and again, after a 2 song sort-of-break, we were back to complete mayhem!
Now every time I see a band in town performing an okay performance, I’m going to think of Anderson Paak and think “well, if he could absolutely kill it, why can’t they?”
What impressed me about Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals most was their energy level. So many times I have seen touring bands not performing at the same levels I had seen them previously perform at on videos online, and each time I have felt the same. “That’s okay, I understand, they’re touring and it’s tiring. I still appreciate them coming here and their performance tonight”. Anderson Paak completely shot that opinion of mine through. Now every time I see a band in town performing an okay performance, I’m going to think of Anderson Paak and think “well, if he could absolutely kill it, why can’t they?”
After Bubblin, they continued with The Season / Carry Me, a song about struggles, inspired by when Anderson worked on a marijuana farm in the early 2010s in order to support his Korean wife and child, followed by the groovy Put Me Thru. Anderson switched between center stage and the drums throughout, which I loved, and he seemed comfortable to do whatever he wanted and whatever was needed to engage the crowd and ensure everyone was enjoying themselves.
Next up was another crowd favorite, Heart Don’t Stand a Chance, and Anderson specifically called out those the couples in the room, dedicating the song to them in a sense, which was followed Sweet Gidget an unreleased song that saw Anderson kill it on the drums again with help from a sweet keys solo from keyboardist Ron Tnava Avant. Next up was Room in Here, a favorite of mine, followed by a few more slightly slower / groovy tracks including ‘Til It’s Over and Miss Right.
The performance was close to coming to a close with another collaboration Suede, up next. A smooth, punchy song that Anderson sang for Knxwledge, it was punctuated with a bunch of great “Yes Lawd!” moments shared between Anderson and the crowd and was followed almost immediately with perhaps the best songs of the night, mixed into one. Am I Wrong / Lite Weight got the whole room moving and singing, Anderson alternating from directing the crowd’s left to right movement from the center of the stage to the drum kits, and then changing things up as the song merged into the next, dancing across the stage, enjoying the crowd’s energy.
This is a guy who is at the top of his game, who is creating his best work, is performing his best gigs and living his best life and he’s approaching it differently than many self-centered artists in similar situations, with gratitude. That’s why he had more energy than most touring acts we see, why the smile was never wiped off his face and why he truly appreciated the audience and they appreciated him in turn. This is his dream and he doesn’t want to wake up.
They were the last songs, but no one was going to let them be. As soon as Anderson and the band made their way from the stage, the crowd erupted in persistent claps for an encore, and they returned quickly, Anderson bounding onto the stage, clearly ready for more. Where he gets his energy from I have no idea but I did not care one bit as they launched into Luh You, another fantastic dance-worthy track which got everyone moving yet again, proving the best dance moments don’t have to happen at clubs.
The crowd launched into calls for ‘one more song’ after they finished, desperate to keep them as long as possible, to which they were happy to oblige. Anderson seemed to take the opportunity to do a some more personal songs with The Bird next, which speaks of hard times growing up at home, followed by The Dreamer, which is about the struggles as well but also about how it taught him to be a dreamer and promise himself he would make it for himself and his family.
It was a wonderful and very real well to end what had been a perfect evening and I think sums up Anderson Paak well. This is a guy who is at the top of his game, who is creating his best work, is performing his best gigs and living his best life and he’s approaching it differently than many self-centered artists in similar situations, with gratitude. That’s why he had more energy than most touring acts we see, why the smile was never wiped off his face and why he truly appreciated the audience and they appreciated him in turn. This is his dream and he doesn’t want to wake up.
It was a wonderful night and Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals were inspiring artists. Music, lyrics and performances like this have a knack of giving you that something special to keep going and I can’t wait to see these guys play again. Let’s make it happen Bangkok.
Written by Abner Olivieri. Images courtesy of HAVE YOU HEARD?