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Live review: Fat Freddy's Drop, O2 Brixton, 09/11/18

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What three things do you look for in a live performance? Quality sound, good stage presence and your favourite tunes that you can have a proper singalong to. While Fat Freddy's Drop have all of the above in abundance, their live shows also offer wild improvisation, ridiculous instrumental breakdowns, and really, really tight silver trousers. Honestly, what’s not to love?

The Kiwi seven-piece are a smorgasbord of musical, cultural and visual styles (from dub, soul, jazz and blues, to reggae) made up of a rag-tag group of expert musicians and singer-songwriters from The Black Seeds, Bongmaster, TrinityRoots, and many other bands. What struck me most about seeing a band I’ve only until now listened to via Spotify, was their effortless cool on centre stage.

Lead vocalist Dallas Tamaira - better known as Joe Dukie - had oodles of swagger and didn’t seem to even break a sweat when reaching those luscious, rolling high tones in fan-favourites ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Ernie’. Meanwhile, the brass section - donned in ever-changing headwear, hunking black sunnies and cricketer's whites - exuded cool, even in their vast, spiraling dub breakdown sections that bridged a gap between delectable jazz and psychedelic reggae.

Many a live band - particularly your big, booming seven-pieces - experiment with styles and off-piste vocal and instrumental runs on stage, but to little avail. While you may have expected at least an element of dissonance between Dukie’s rich vocals and the band’s penchant for an instrumental tangent, the two slotted perfectly into the other like an expertly crafted piece of Ikea furniture. Sensual sax hoots broke down the barrier between the instrumental and the vocal, and a deep, heart-in-throat bass picked up any stray sounds venturing off into the experimental wilderness.

Lighting the whole of the O2 in Brixton on fire with his harmonica solos, costume changes and manic showmanship on the tuba and trombone, was Joe Lindsay. Often pelting end to end of the stage and dipping in and out of the crowd, Lindsay’s crack-hugging silver trousers, white satin shirt, and alarmingly sparkly hat combo didn’t feel out of place at all. Brixton lapped up every bit of his “drunk dad on Halloween singing at a desolate karaoke bar” appeal.

We were rewarded with a much-needed Dixieland style jazz interval three-quarters of the way through the performance, where Lindsay calmed his heart rate back down below short-circuiting and Dukie took off for a short break. Not unlike the band to do so, it gave a chance for the heavily Kiwi crowd to recoup before the master finale.

Joe Dukie’s sister Sarah Tamaira (known to us inside the venue as Ladi6, an enigmatic performer and riotous support act from earlier in the night) joined the gang for an epic, anthemic, monumental rendition of ‘Roady’ from the band’s 2005 album Based on a True Story. The brother-sister combo bounced off one another with cool, calm, collectedness, despite the deafening cheers of the crowd and raucous yelps for “More! More! More!” For a brief moment, Brixton descended into a chaotic cacophony of frenzied dancing, smiling and sweating.

Played out to an improvised saxophone run and booming back-and-forth between the crowd and occasional rapper MC Slave, the Wellington seven-piece slunk off stage exhausted and exuberant. Every single ounce of light, love, and energy was left on the stage at Brixton’s O2, along with any of the crowd’s preconceptions of what to expect from the Kiwi veterans.

Images courtesy of Mark Williams

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