Ybor City may throw such killer parties, but even then, they don’t usually include Andrew W.K.
That is, until Friday night at the Orpheum, when the Party Hard musician, motivational speaker, candidate for cultural ambassador to Bahrain and post-sex wipes spokesman stopped by.
Tampa was the sole full-band concert on a solo tour otherwise only featuring W.K., a keyboard and a microphone. This is because his backing group primarily resides in the bay area.
This made Friday’s concert a hometown show of sorts. Although the singer hails from Michigan, his band began in Florida, and he graciously thanked Obituary (and onetime W.K.) drummer Donald Tardy for helping it all happen.
With a full band, relatively intimate club venue in the Orpheum and a set list packed with selections from the album, the concert probably pretty closely approximated a show from the I Get Wet era. And as he came onstage to the backdrop of a drum kit bearing his infamous bloody-nose photo, it was time to party like it was 2002.
It seems more than likely W.K. could carry a show by himself, slamming on the keyboard (the singer’s also a classically trained pianist) and sporting an all-white wardrobe like the black sheep of the Osmond family. But having a full band on hand to thrash on stage — one member even briefly getting their long hair tangled in another’s guitar — certainly adds to the jubilant party rock’s raucousness.
One characteristic that defines W.K.’s persona is a kind of sincere literal-mindedness. When he exuberantly exhorts that It’s Time to Party as he did at the show’s opening, then by God, it’s time to party. The song I Get Wet was made especially literal as beer and water was sprayed into the crowd.
Another one of his defining traits is a cheerful lack of boundaries. Audience members lingered on stage long after even the most open-minded punk group probably would’ve punted them off. Fans sidled up to him mid-performance and took more cell-phone self-shots than a Chicago Sun-Times staffer.
One crowd member came onstage sporting a Bubba Army shirt to boos in a perhaps less shining local spotlight. W.K. reacted with genuine concern and interest, engaging the fan and the crowd in a dialogue about the radio host.
There were several episodes like this. Before too long, it seemed like more audience members had been onstage than hadn’t. By the time W.K. got to Party Hard, seemingly half of the crowd took to the stage, dancing in a scene resembling the end of Caddyshack.
But others rocked on the ground, including W.K. doppelgangers whipping their sweat-slicked hair back and forth, as the celebration continued. It was certainly a party-centric playlist, with It’s Time to Party, Long Live the Party and Party Hard.
As the concert came to a close with Party Hard, W.K. took a moment to apologize to anyone in the audience who had come for a concert. “This isn’t a concert, it’s a party!” he said. Yes, but a killer one.