On its surface, "T-Pain performing at a comedy festival" might sound like a joke about the Auto-Tune king's long-fought reputation as an artist no one should take seriously.
But on Friday night at Comedy Central's Clusterfest, currently taking over San Francisco's Civic Center, T-Pain took a risk and came out on top, delivering an uncomplicated display of joy at a time when looking detached is fashionable and trolling is currency. And he left the audience beaming.
T-Pain moonwalked to "Blame It" and wound his hips to "Cyclone," dreads swinging and grills gleaming. He was silly and effusive, cracking up the crowd. And although he was surrounded by comedians, T-Pain—who was previously laughed out of hip-hop during a late-2000s backlash against Auto-Tune—proved that he's no joke. In fact, he brought the house down with impressive showmanship and musical skill at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
It wasn't without its initial hitches. T-Pain's set was originally scheduled for 5:30pm, a half-hour after festival doors opened—which seemed beneath him as someone with 12 Top 10 Billboard hits and two No. 1 singles. Most fans had yet to pass security at his original showtime. Clusterfest apparently heard the feedback loud and clear, and rescheduled his set for 11:30pm.
"'Since earlier today, I’ve been asking my wife, ‘People gonna come if I do it later?’" he joked with the audience. "I really didn’t think anybody would show up to this sh-t."