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Concert Reviews:
Anderson.Paak powers Meadow Brook with energetic soul stomp

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, June 3, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- The Meadow Brook Amphitheatre lost power Saturday night, June 1, forcing the postponement of Rob Thomas' concert.

But on Sunday, June 2, Anderson.Paak, brought the juice back -- in abundance.

The genre-blending California multi-hyphenate and his band, the Free Nationals, delivered a 95-minute soul stomp that had enough energy to power a large metropolitan area in the midst of a tornado. Paak (nee Brandon Paak Anderson) was, in fact, a whirlwind on stage, shifting from a drum kit positioned high above the multi-level stage to frontman position on the mic - high-stepping his way through "Bubblin'" and, during "Reachin' 2 Much," grooving his way up the amphitheater’s center aisle, all the way to the top of the pavilion and back.

The 24-song set had its smooth and quieter moments -- including "King James," "Smile," "Make It Better" and "Suede" -- but even those were charged by a sizzling, slow-burn kind of tension. And when Paak and the Free Nationals, expanded to seven members with a pair of backup vocalists, cut loose on "Heart Don't Stand a Chance," "Come Down," "Tints," "Jet Black," "Come Home" and so many others, the troupe had Meadow Brook pulsing with ecstatic exuberance.

He even had his audience of proud "weirdos" howling at the moon with him as he vamped into "Trippy."

Impressive stylistic range remained Paak's stock in trade, from the flowing raps of "6 Summers," "Anywhere" and the politically charged Kaytranada cover "Glowed Up" to the West Coast flavor of "The Waters," the jazzy touches of "Smile" and the techno underpinnings of "Am I Wrong." The Free Nationals shined on their own during "Beauty & Essex" and keyboardist Ron Tnava Vant took to the vocoder for a medley that included bits of "Pony," Tupac Shakur's "California Love" and an appropriate "It's So Cold in the D."

Paak and company had to push through a slightly muddy sound mix throughout the night, though his vocals were always out front. But the staging compensated with massive video screens built into the screen and lasers during a handful of the songs. When Paak told the crowd that "I hope you had the time of your life tonight," it was no mere hyperbole, and the 5,000 or so at Meadow Brook will certainly be happy to hold him to his promise that "I will be back, I promise you that."

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