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High Notes: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

Joined by T.I., Busta, Stevie Wonder and Paak's 5-year-old son!

Written by Rosalie Cabison • Photography by Debi Del Grande, Live Nation • December 12, 2016

Is it possible that we all just witnessed a moment in music history? Tickets sold out and Live Nation set up a live stream for Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals' first show since the announcement that Malibu is nominated for two Grammys this upcoming awards season.

Naturally, a celebration was in order.

At this new level in their music careers, set design leveled up, too. Paak and The Free Nats debuted The Malibu Motel. “Kick off your shoes,” Anderson said, welcoming us into the universe they created.


It's an Anderson .Paak (ed) house. @anderson._paak #soldout #hollywoodpalladium @freenationals

A photo posted by Hollywood Palladium (@hollywoodpalladium) on

Atmosphere dancers, custom lights, dreamy visualizations, bubble jets, CO2 cannons synched to blast with the drum set and even an actor just sitting outside a door reading a newspaper added to the experience throughout the show—this was Malibu the album as a fully-realized artistic vision. AP is well-known for storytelling in his music. Now, he gets to tell a story with his stage.

What was the story? An all-nighter at The Malibu Motel with Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals! The show opened with a sweeping California sunset visual behind the stage, slowed in the middle as it turned into a starry night and ended with love and light just as the “sun” came up again.

"Did you come to lose your mind tonight!?!” Paak yelled, working up the crowd like a true MC. Even if we didn't plan on it, he made us lose our minds anyway. We escaped our own realities, joined the reality he gave us and most importantly, we never stopped dancing.

The soundtrack:

Yeah. You can pick your jaw up off the floor now.

More about surprise guests:

  • Hip-hop media mogul Sway came out to kickoff the show!
  • T.I. burst through a motel room door and performed his verse from the “Come Down” remix. In that moment I thought if you open your set with T.I., bigger guests have to come later. But WHO? The answer I got is so unreal that I’m laughing as I write this.
  • Anderson hyped Busta Rhymes during “Put Your Hands," but Busta took a moment to do a hype man job of his own. “We lost a lot of greats this year,” he said, causing murmurs of "RIP Phife!”, "RIP Prince!” and "RIP Bowie!” to ripple through the crowd. "We gotta celebrate our greats while they’re still alive!” And we all cheered for Anderson .Paak.

    If you really wanna party with me.. @aldochang @billyshaw17 #bustarhymes #andersonpaak #danceparty

    A video posted by Jason Campos (@heisenberg210) on

  • Any comparisons made between Paak and Stevie Wonder are officially justified. Mr. Wonder himself came out to say hello, mentioned AP's appearance at his House Full of Toys Benefit the night before and announced that he is looking forward to writing a song together.

    #Mood @anderson._paak #StevieWonder #Yeah 😎🤘🏽

    A video posted by Jessica Jolia (@jessicajolia) on

Stray observations:

  • AP is going to be a style icon. I could do a separate write-up about how his wardrobe choices matched with each section of the set:

Red trenchcoat with silver pockets (Jacket - Tim Coppens; Tee - Calvin Klein; Jeans - Helmut Lang; Boots - Cu4tro)
- Plain white shirt
White button-up with a red plaid blazer (Suit - Waraire Boswell; Shoes - Grand Voyage)
- Plain black shirt
Black full-length coat with red paint-splotches (Coat - Billy Reid; Tee - Calvin Klein; Jeans - Helmut Lang; Boots - Cu4tro)
Black and white all-over patterned jumpsuit with Michael Jackson-esque zipper details (Custom Jumpsuit - Stinson Haus; Boots - Cu4tro)

What's the ONE THING people need to know about Anderson .Paak's live show? Just go see him. Boom. Bap. Mic drop. This review is over.