Tucker Pillsbury has the self-awareness only one who goes by the name Role Model can have.
He’s dead serious, but there’s also a healthy dose of subversion. He’s elevated himself to the status of Gen Z exemplar, but he also knows that he’s far from perfect. On the night of Dec. 8, his infectious charisma made for a simultaneously silly yet sexy set at Oakland’s Fox Theater.
After a sultry opening set from a knockoff version of The Weeknd, Pillsbury shuffled onto the stage in plaid pants and a loose button up shirt. Bubbly, bouncy “If Jesus Saves, She’s My Type” played over the speakers as he excitedly hopped, frolicked and danced in his signature wide-legged stance. Encapsulating the warm glow of young love, the track ushered in an air of lighthearted fun.
One simply cannot get bored watching Pillsbury on stage. Whether it’s his goofy dance moves or his bizarre habit of woofing at the crowd, he knows how to keep fans, their parents and their partners consistently amused.
During “Who Hurt You,” Pillsbury engaged in an emotive, fake conversation with himself as he acted out the lyrics on stage. At the end of “Hello,” he comically popped his hip, much to the delight of the crowd. No matter how strange the night became, he maintained an inexplicable charm, his energy overflowing in waves off the stage.
“Can you sign my Prozac?” a fan’s sign read. “That’s the most 2022 sh— I’ve ever seen,” Pillsbury responded. In many ways, the show was quintessentially 2022 — from the primarily Gen Z crowd to the abundance of iPhones held in the air.
Throughout the night, Pillsbury prided himself on being an expert reader of the room. Before beginning a slow song, he’d jokingly warn the audience, promising to bring the energy up again soon. From sitting on the edge of the stage for “Rx” to spinning around during “Cross Your Mind,” Pillsbury balanced out the set with cheeky awareness.
Surprisingly, the fan favorite of the night wasn’t a Pillsbury original, but a One Direction cover. “We’re only getting older, baby,” he sang during his rendition of “Night Changes.” His warm tenor carried beautifully over the track, smooth as it sailed through the upper octaves. As green lights washed over the venue, the crowd cheerfully swayed along to the nostalgic track.
However, at other times, his overreliance on pre-recorded vocals brought audience members out of the performance to an extent. The move was especially jarring considering the excellent quality of his live vocals, and it became difficult to distinguish what was real from what was recorded.
A Role Model concert is nothing if not unpredictable. “We are One Direction,” Pillsbury remarked before facetiously flexing for the crowd, barking, singing the chorus to “Best Song Ever” and proclaiming, “We are the room readers.” Pillsbury’s behavior was often a bit absurd, but that’s also what made his set so entertaining.
Yet, Pillsbury was at his silliest when he let it all go on stage. He dizzied audience members during “Cross Your Mind” as he zigzagged back and forth, giving an operatic ending as he gestured out into the crowd. By the conclusion of “Stripclub Music,” he made his way to the floor, shaking as the electric guitar pulsed through the theater.
Though Pillsbury’s set was on the shorter side, he made every moment count. “Forever&more” sweetly closed the night as he breezily sang of his “angel wearing plaid” and ran along the barricade. There was no encore, but the upbeat track was enough to send crowd members giddily on their way out the venue.
Pillsbury may not be the Role Model Gen Z needs, but he’s the one they’ve found. With every PG-13 song and self-deprecating joke, he’s proven himself to be more than up to the task.