Miguel proves to be a rock star at KCRW Sound in Focus

The sunglasses. The leather jacket. The red pants. A tasseled microphone stand that would have made Steven Tyler blush. Los Angeles native Miguel looked more like a rock star than R&B crooner when he took the stage Saturday night as part of KCRW’s Sound in Focus series at the Annenberg Space for Photography. He had the ladies swooning as though he was Axl Rose and it was 1991.

With an incredible backing band behind him, Miguel ripped through an energetic hour-long show to an adoring crowd. Outside of Kendrick Lamar, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that Los Angeles embraces more at the moment. The screams that emanated from the crowd — young women in particular — were ear-piercing.

It’s good to see yet another R&B /rap/hip-hop act enhance their shows with a live band behind them — Chance the Rapper and Anderson Paak are contemporaries that come to mind. Miguel spoke during the show about how “energy doesn’t get destroyed, just transferred” — and he lived it on stage by riding his band’s energy and transferring it to the crowd. It’s the kind of thing your stoned friend would say on the couch — and Miguel said it with the same kind of authenticity. Miguel’s swag even transferred to the ASL interpreter that was in front of the left screen delivering Miguel’s messages.

“Do you like drugs?” Miguel asked before delving into the expansive R&B jam “Do You…” — punctuating it with an apology to all the parents in the crowd for the lyrical content. There were a good number of kids in attendance. I saw one young girl in particular rock out on her dad’s shoulders with her hands outstretched towards the sky.

Miguel’s authenticity stretched into a tender moment where he had security hand him what appeared to be a handwritten note from a fan. “I will read this later, I promise you,” he said, before stuffing the note into his pocket. “Can I just kick it with you for a second, just talk to you?” he asked the crowd, before grabbing a stool and performing a song later in the set.

After more than an hour, Miguel said thanks and walked off the stage, leaving his band to stretch a dope jam out an extra minute or so. Miguel’s die-hard contingent were clearly impressed, and he certainly made a few hundred new fans with his show.

Photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold