Anderson .Paak

The Phoenix, Toronto ON, July 22

Anderson .PaakThe Phoenix, Toronto ON, July 22
Photo: Kevin Jones
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"Toronto!" Anderson .Paak hollered after raiding the stage with leaps, outsized hand throws and joyous spins. "It's about to be one of them fucking nights."

The singer/songwriter/drummer/producer/lightning bolt was only one song into his headlining set, but he was dead-on with his prophecy.

The sun had long kissed Friday night goodbye, yet the city was sweltering. Over 30 degrees Celsius before you add the humidity tax. That was outside. Inside a Phoenix so rammed you started wondering about fire codes, .Paak was performing in a giant steam room. If you didn't want to get strangers' perspiration on you, you chose the wrong room. Glistening bartenders looked like they'd just hopped off Slip 'N Slides. At one point, my shins started sweating. 

Quick to ditch his rolled-sleeves white denim jacket and embrace the heat, Brandon Park Anderson and the Free Nationals—guitar, bass, DJ, keys—proceeded to crank the thermostat by breathlessly burning through tracks from Malibu, one of the best records of 2016, regardless of genre.

The passion and intensity the 30-year-old talent brings to his live show is disarming and freeing. To think: .Paak was just in town, at Echo Beach, seven weeks ago, when he outshone and outworked headliner Bryson Tiller.

Yet, they came out in happy droves to catch the second Toronto stop on the Malibu World Tour, a journey that will span six months.

"This shit feel like home, man. Damn," said Anderson. This was after he moshed with his axemen to "Drugs" but before he slid behind a vacant drum kit.

Oh, yeah. Man can drum. Singing on point and rapping with near-Kendrick-like precision while simultaneously banging away on the skins, Anderson nailed "The Season / Carry Me" and "Put Me Thru." Then went full Animal for a raucus drum solo. The set was only 15 minutes old and we already had our first climax.

After jumping atop a garbage bin to dance and Snapchat, one sweaty bearded dude in a Vuarnet tank top joyfully shouted at his friends, "This is the hottest I've ever been in my life."

Fitting with his genre-bending catalogue, the artist formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy veered into rock, R&B, hip-hop, funk and house with expertise, frequently tweaking or extending his studio versions. The Free Nationals keyboardist injected vocoder-effected backup vocals to the silky "Room in Here." Dips into lesser-known work from Venice and NxWorries, like the pimp-strutty "Suede," were appreciated. Communal handclaps and loud applause was surrendered without prompt. 

So the first encore was inevitable. Killing "The Bird" and "Am I Wrong" behind the drums, Anderson flicked at David Bowie's "Let's Dance," blew a double kiss, and chucked his sticks into the sea of sweat.

Half the crowd, understandably, believed the show was over and walked away content by 70 minutes of madness. The stage lights came on, the band left, but the other half chanted for more, still hungry.

It's been a while since these eyes have seen a legit second encore, let alone a third. It was one of those nights. So .Paak returned, his splashy button-up replaced by a simple T-shirt, summoned his reserved energy and dove into the throng, singing while surfing on his back and proving Dr. Dre's talent scout skills have yet to rust. 

Before finally fleeing the stage for good, Anderson said, "Best show of my life, Toronto. I love y'all." It felt genuine.

The charismatic Oxnard native may be late to get his shine, but he's done been a star. More and more people are about to find the light. Anderson's Aftermath debut will be a monster.

A friend turned and said, "I need four showers."
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