Gig review: Fat Freddy's Drop

Fat Freddy's Drop gave fans an evening of searing reggae-funk at their Auckland show. Reviewer Duncan Johnstone was there.

Fat Freddy's Drop
Where: The Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland
When: Friday, May 28

The whispers were that The Freddys Show was going to bring a bit of theatre to go with the Wellington band's trademark sound - a performance staged in two halves with a quiet opening followed by a hits-filled finale.

Yes, there were some old tracks and when the curtain lifted they opened with a harmonica-driven Rain from their first album Live At The Matterhorn.

But this was an evening of searing reggae-funk, a blast from go to whoa, with the big band revelling in the chance to improvise with some great jamming.

Freddy's can chill but it was obvious they were here to burn as they worked through some of their best from the acclaimed Based On A True Story album and last year's successful follow-up Dr Boondigga And The Big BW.

The two halves stretched the evening out to almost three hours. By then the sold-out crowd had been worked into a frenzy with a booming encore of Midnight Marauders.

The thing with Freddy's is there's always something going on. With two backup singers they've expanded to 10 for this national tour. It's visually stimulating and a smorgasbord of sound.

Those seated in the circle could pick out what they wanted; those on the packed floor always had a beefy beat to bounce to.

Dallas Tamaira's distinctive voice was in fine form, topped by the ballad Ground My Ego. He is one cool dude with the crowd in the palm of his hand and the band at his fingertips. When he's not singing, he's conducting - and he has plenty to work with.

It's the tight brass section on top of DJ Chris Faiumu's slick mixes that set Freddy's apart .

Joe Lindsay is very much the man with his energetic trombone. When he swapped his lapels for a bright yellow tracksuit after a couple of tracks, it was obvious this was going to be a night of high energy.

And when he bosomed up to his big tuba late in the show, it sounded like the QE2 was coming down the Rangitoto Channel.

Saxophonist Scott Towers has been a wonderful acquisition and Toby Laing's trumpet came to the fore as the horns went wild on a great rendition of Shiverman, a standout off their last album.

The crowd got what they wanted with Cay's Crays and also got a taste of the future with new tracks Blackbird and Afrique that suggest the band, who have been around for 11 years now, still have plenty left in them.

These guys clearly have fun and as winter starts to envelope us their sound was like a lasting taste of summer. The track Breakthough was a perfect example of that, blended by a superb sound mix and some great lighting.

The Wellingtonians have gone from being a capital act to an international force in their niche - a fusion of sound with beats that becomes irresistible to tap into.

This whistlestop tour is a chance to taste a true flavour of New Zealand music. Freddy's fans shouldn't miss out - they are in fine form.

* What did you think of the show? Post your comments below.