Fred again.. Review – UK Producer Lives Up to the Hype at the Hottest Gig in Sydney
Fred again.. played at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Tuesday, 7th February. David James Young reviews.
Every once in a while, Australian festival bookers are ahead of the curve. Just look at pre-Nevermind Nirvana being snagged for the Big Day Out and pre-‘Bad Guy’ Billie Eilish for Groovin the Moo, and both becoming megastars by the time they arrived down under. A similar turn of events involved Laneway announcing UK wunderkind producer Fred again.. on its 2023 lineup back in September 2022.
At the time, he was a hero of lockdown finally making tangible human connections with his unique Actual Life project (completed last October) through global festival appearances. His joie de vivre, as captured in a now-legendary Boiler Room DJ set, carried his momentum even further. In the midst of all of that, his Laneway sideshows were announced, and literally sold out before tickets went on sale to the general public. Fred again.. could’ve upgraded this show twice over if he felt like it, but the fact he didn’t made it the hottest gig in town.
Fred again.. | Boiler Room: London
Fred took the stage in front of a room so full you couldn’t have crowbarred in an extra body. The response was rapturous, deafening. Actually, there are two better descriptors staring us in the face: “Beautiful; exploding”. With the now-famous words of American poet Guante ringing out, ‘Kyle (i found you)’ offered sub-bass you could feel in your chest and an emotive sensibility you could feel in your heart.
This binary underpinned the lion’s share of Fred’s performance, turning Actual Life into a tangible phenomenon through a dazzling audio-visual display. Every person sampled by Fred was synced up on the screens, while a GoPro was positioned in front of his centre-stage MPC to provide a close-up look at his notoriously fast finger-work.
Though a well-oiled machine, the show never felt too rehearsed. Fred’s piano-driven interludes added a distinct ambience, including a tease of Bon Iver’s ‘Beth/Rest’, and his understated vocal delivery gave further texture to tracks like ‘Sabrina (i am a Party)’ and ‘Kahan (last year)’. He paid tribute to Melbourne songwriter Angie McMahon, whose ‘Pasta’ is sampled on the delectable ‘Angie (i’ve been lost)’, and led the crowd in a goosebump-inducing sing-along.
But for all the tenderness and emotion that goes into a Fred again.. show, there were still plenty of bangers in the mix. ‘Jungle’ got the electricity flowing, with fans on shoulders as far as the eye could see, before the Hottest 100 entry ‘Turn on the Lights again..’ and the Skirllex collab ‘Rumble’ imperilled the famously brittle Enmore Theatre floor.
But that was merely practice for later on, when The Blessed Madonna appeared on-screen for ‘Marea (we’ve lost dancing)’, lamenting the loss of dancing to a piercingly loud reception. Is there anything more satisfying than finally getting to dance to a pandemic anthem amid a large congregation of ecstatic bodies?
With a final medley of ‘Billie (Loving Arms)’ and ‘Delilah (Pull Me Out of This)’, we were reminded of the phrase that helped kick off the Actual Life era nearly two years ago: “We gon’ make it through.” As the lights came up on what was certainly the smallest official show Fred again… will play in this city, it felt like we had finally made it.
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