The first thought that entered my mind as Pharrell took the stage for the Apple Music Festival was ‘where was his buffalo hat?’. Whether or not he had forgotten to bring his trademark headpiece, luckily, he had remembered the tunes.
Pharrell’s ageless complexion is probably the product of a Dorian Grey–style mirror backstage. The performer’s many years have allowed him to produce, sing and profit off a preternaturally large back catalogue of collaborations.
Be it the percussive insanity of Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ or the bubbling hip-hop cauldron that is Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop it Like its Hot’, Pharrell’s teamwork knows no boundaries. His studio phonebook must read like an Encyclopaedia Britannica.
But to say his talents purely lie in partnerships would be a huge discredit.
In recent years, Pharrell has gone from strength to strength as an independent musician, his musical compass directing him to chart success with last year’s album ‘Girl’.
Here, in the panopticon-like circle of the Roundhouse, with all eyes on him (and maybe a few on his cadre of backing dancers), Pharrell was playing second fiddle to no one.
Most of the set was spot on the mark, eliciting massive sing-alongs and even the occasional stage invasion. The playing of NERD songs highlighted how Pharrell has not forgotten his old band-mates and the part they played in his musical apotheosis.
Playing recent song ‘Freedom’ (a likely a dig at the Iranian government’s persecution of the Youtubers caught making a ‘Happy’-themed music montage) three times did succeed in emphasising the political dimension to Pharrell’s output.
However, the fact that ‘Freedom’ wasn’t really one of his best tracks became noticeably obvious with each repetition of its rather lazy hook and hackneyed lyrics – ‘My first name is Free-, my last name is –Dom’.
Minor blips aside, it was a great show and a testament to the booking power of Apple. Seeing Pharrell live is something that has to be done. I would take my hat off to the man but I think he has enough already.
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