Review: Fat Freddy’s Drop @ O2 Brixton Academy (London, 24th March 2016)

There aren’t many musicians or bands able to amaze and confound their fans on such a regular basis, and Fat Freddy’s Drop are arguably one of the most distinctive examples of this. Full of free-spirited, eclectic artistry, their recent London shows in front of an jubilant crowd at the O2 Brixton Academy were the unequivocal proof.

The former Wellington jam-band have just released their forth studio album ‘BAYS’, which has seen them change their collective mask once again. Their characteristic upbeat attitude has been distilled to reveal a more electronic and groovier nature that is anchored to the sounds of the 1980s, with synths and house references featuring throughout. However, Fat Freddy’s Drop have still preserved their fatal attraction, having sold-out the South-West London venue for two consecutive nights.

The live environment brought out the best, but also some of the worst, from the revamped FFD. BAYS, which was presented in its entirety, is indeed a challenging and very particular work, and when performed in front of an audience there was of course the desire for everything to be perfect or ‘just so’. However because of this, the shows seemed to struggle to keep the distinctive energetic drive of the band’s previous gigs, which seemed to have been replaced by more refined arrangements and wide-ranging influences.

If the first tunes played (like ’10-Feet-Tall’ and ‘Blackbird’) immediately hooked the audience, spurring them to dance (or trying to do so, considering the jam-packed hall), the second half of the show dragged itself through some overstretched and -extended instrumental passages (as it happened for ‘Razor’ rendition), which descended into a prolonged, wishy-washy electronic limbo.

Despite all of this though, Fat Freddy’s Drop remain of the coolest acts around, with their exciting live shows and a mind-blowing musical amalgam that improves with every gig. Unfortunately, there’s a but…as it seems that they are becoming a little too self-aware in the pursuit of being ‘cool’, which makes things much harder to enjoy. It looks like that, in favour of the pursuit of sonic perfection, they have started to hide their musical basic instincts and the fire in their bellies.

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