An N.E.R.D. show aims to give its audience two things, says Pharrell Williams: energy and emotion. You can hear both qualities in N.E.R.D. (No one Ever Really Dies) as it grows its catalog.
This month, it decamps from mixing Seeing Sounds to stomp and sway its way through a club tour as a warm-up to a Kanye West tour later this year.
Williams, who co-produced Madonna’s Hard Candy, is often N.E.R.D.’s most visible — and vocal — member, but he’s collaborated with fellow nerd Chad Hugo on several hits for Jay-Z, Britney and Justin Timberlake, so it’s not exactly a one-man show.
Nor is N.E.R.D. a bunch of megastars. In deciding to play shows in secondary markets like Louisville, Williams stays on the humble, pointing to the group’s worldwide sales as proof that they’re not there.
“We’re secondary ourselves, so we wanted to reach out to those people first,” he says. “Those are the people who made us, the cool and credible people, so we just felt like, what better way to warm up?”
“While we enjoy the mainstream, it’s not where we live,” he continues. “We have very niche sales, just about 2 million on the first album worldwide. That’s not huge sales at all.”
Now, N.E.R.D.’s status should rise fast. At last week’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin, the group delivered a scorching set at the Fader Fort, trotting out Sounds’ first single, “Everybody Nose,” then set bodies in motion with a cover of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
A cool cover, yes, but it’s the new originals Williams is most excited about, namechecking Paul Thomas Anderson as a key influence. “If you look at the movie, ‘There Will Be Blood,’ there’s just a brilliance to it,” he says. “There’s the intent of getting off on energy and emotion, but with such a poetic approach. It’s so ingenious to do it from that angle.”
Cambridge, Mass., duo Chester French, whom Williams signed to Star Trak/Interscope, opens Monday’s show.
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Monday, March 24
Coyote’s at City Block
133 W. Liberty St.
$20; 6:30 p.m. 18+