California rapper Anderson .Paak bounds out onto the Radio 1Xtra Stage in a slinky, shimmery printed jacket, indicating his mission to imbibe louche vibes from Reading Festival – not a place renowned for louche vibes. Yet, in his hands, this corner of the typically hedonistic festival turns into a freewheeling, free-loving place of pointed chillness.
“What’s poppin’, Reading?” he says, grinning out to the audience as his band The Free Nationals assesses the moderate sprawl that accumulates throughout the show. “It’s good to be back in the UK, motherfuckers.” He blows a kiss to the crowd during the sleepy, sexy ‘Milk N’ Honey’, before promising, “If nobody loves you, I got your back tonight.” It’s dusty and dry this evening, speckles of dust rising up through the audience as the sun sets overhead; squint and be really, really wasted and you could, during this 30-minute show, be at the super-sexy California festival Coachella. When the gig ends and you’re landed back in Berkshire, the only reasonable response is to long for .Paak’s return.
On ‘The Season/Carry Me’, he croons, “If I didn’t love you then, I damn sure love you now.” The song recalls his childhood longing for Nike Air Jordans and, during an instrumental section, .Paak delivers a spoken-word tale in which he relays the plight, revealing that his mum finally relented and worked hard to stump up for the trainers. If that’s where he drew his ambition from, Reading Festival is the current beneficiary.
“We don’t have a lot of time, so while you’re here, I wanna see you lose your fucking minds,” he says, before taking to the drums, proving his versatility. ‘Heart Don’t Stand A Chance’ is clearly a modern classic and any other performer would end with this deeply romantic, moving slowjam, but .Paak opts to batter the drums for its climax and move on.
For the conclusion, he opts instead for ‘Lite Weight’, a saucy album cut (produced by boy wonder Katranada) from this year’s stellar record ‘Malibu’, causing the crowd to slutdrop in unison. For this brief period, Reading Festival is sexy as fuck, before the dust descends and we’re returned to the murky, muggy British summer.