Time moves increasingly fast in an always-on age, and it’s hard to remember that Fred again.. played his debut live show less than 18 months ago, such has been his recent omnipresence. Across three albums in his ‘Actual Life’ series and collaborations with Headie One, Four Tet, Swedish House Mafia and more, the Brian Eno protégé and one-time producer for Ed Sheeran and George Ezra became a new dance star over the pandemic. With towering beats set next to diaristic lyrics, his music suited both indulging in the introversion of lockdown and hoping to dance together again.
At the first of three sold-out homecoming shows at London’s Brixton Academy, the producer’s live show hits new heights, and the gig feels like his crowning glory. “I’ve grown up going to this venue,” a message from Fred Gibson reads on screen after the first few songs of the set, “and it’s my favourite venue in the world. This is HOME!” He proceeds to attack the show with as much energy and enthusiasm as a good homecoming deserves.
Since lockdown ended, the producer has toured the world, collaborated widely, played a rapturously received Boiler Room set with 10 million views and counting, and all this leads to a beefier, heavier live set. While early ‘Actual Life’ songs coupled danceability with tenderness, the majority of the Brixton show simply goes hard. In an early four-song run of non-’Actual Life’ songs, the boisterous ‘Jungle’ and fizzing Skrillex and Four Tet collaboration ‘Rumble’ bring a rowdy energy that rarely leaves the amped-up crowd. Later, Romy joins for an exhilarating run through new collaboration ‘Strong’.
Meticulously crafted and with gorgeous stage design, the show draws from the same creative palette as ‘Actual Life’ though, with Fred’s many collaborators all appearing on the screen during their parts. The interconnectivity of the songs on all three albums often means they intertwine across the show, with ‘Angie (I’ve Been Lost)’ from the first ‘Actual Life’ album melting into the euphoric ‘Clara (The Night Is Dark)’ from album three and then back again; the same happens with ‘Billie (Loving Arms) and ‘Delilah (Pull Me Out Of This)’ at the show’s finale.
Predictably, it all comes to a head with ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’, the song released in the pandemic that became a beacon of hope to many stuck inside, dreaming of what may return one day. In it, the titular Marea (aka The Blessed Madonna) dreams of a “marvellous” return to connection, live music and community. When the beat drops, no crowd has moved like it at the famous old venue for years, and Fred again.., the conductor of it all, has arrived as a true star.
Fred again.. played:
‘Kyle (I Found You)’
‘Bleu (Better With Time)’
‘Tate (How I Feel)’
‘Kammy (Like I Do)’
‘Turn On The Lights again..’
‘Faisal (Envelops Me)’
‘Nathan (Still Breathing)’
‘Danielle (Smile On My Face)’
‘Strong’ (with Romy)
‘Dermot (See Yourself In My Eyes)’
‘Chanel’ (Frank Ocean cover) / ‘A New Error’ (Moderat cover)
‘Sabrina (I Am The Party)’
‘Angie (I’ve Been Lost)’ / ‘Clara (The Night Is Dark)’
‘Winnie (End Of Me)’
‘Kelly (End Of A Nightmare)’
‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’
‘Billie (Loving Arms)’ / ‘Delilah (Pull Me Out Of This)’