It’s not an enviable task following Billie Eilish on Reading Festival’s main stage. After what rumours are saying was one of the biggest crowds ever at the festival, it was up to Anderson .Paak and his band The Free Nationals to keep the party going. Which they expertly did, in a triumphant set of the musician’s genre spanning tunes.
Opening with a trumpet solo, .Paak then launches into ‘Heart Don’t Stand a Chance’. From the get-go, the effortlessly slick show is full of energy. The band are on point, the visuals vibrant and .Paak is at the top of his game. New tunes from April’s ‘Ventura’ like ‘Jet Black’ and ‘King James’ are brought to life when performed live, whilst old favourites like ‘Come Down’ and Kaytranada collaboration ‘Glowed Up’ still absolutely slap.
Throughout, .Paak can’t sit still. He dances possessed, hopping up from behind his foliage covered drum kit and taking time to survey the hefty army of revellers watching him.
And he charms the crowd. “Let’s do something for the love birds out there,” he proclaims before the gorgeous, Motown-flecked ‘Make It Better’. Unimpressed with the crowd response he adds, “you don’t like love man? Make some noise for love, man!”
Midway through .Paak introduces his keyboardist Ron Tnava Avant. In what started as the classic, band introduction where the musician plays a bit of a showy solo, then turned into Avant covering Ginuwine‘s ‘Pony’ and Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ with ethereal vocoded vocals.
Finishing with the one-two punch of ‘Bubblin’’ and ‘Milk n’ Honey’, the pits open up (“I saw you all start a pit earlier – this is the one to do it on. Let’s make one,” he commands the audience) and even the most reluctant picnic blanket dwellers get on their feet for a groove.
Yeah, it might be a hard task to follow up Billie Eilish on the main stage. But Anderson .Paak was more than up to the challenge, it what was a surprise contender for a weekend highlight performance. Jubilant, joyful and expertly executed, .Paak’s Reading Festival shows was a low key triumph.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals played:
Heart Don’t Stand a Chance
Make It Better
Pony + Old Town Road cover by Ron Tnava Avant (keyboardist)
Milk n’ Honey