Live Review: Fat Freddy's Drop, Sampa The Great, Thomas Oliver

29 February 2016 | 1:19 pm | Luke Saunders

"After a two-hour journey through Fat Freddy's finest a mental crowd got a well deserved encore."

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Warming up one of Sydney's most iconic venues last night was Thomas Oliver whose expertise lay in his use of lap guitars. Oliver managed to find a soulful slide of emotion without overstating his talents, however his sound felt somewhat hollow in the large Hordern hall.

Understanding that music is the language of the soul, Sampa The Great incorporated an interesting blend of flow and attitude. Exuding a relaxed yet focused aura, Sampa never really seemed like she was trying too hard to string together rhymes, yet remained sassy and powerful nonetheless. The bumping backbeats of tracks like F E M A L E and Blue Boss were able to please the itching groove of a crowd ready to dance on.

Ready to face the "six-headed soul monster" that is Fat Freddy's Drop, peals of excitement rippled through the crowd as their set began. Flaunting an absolutely loaded brass section the NZ band jammed out to the slow swing of reggae they so expertly traverse. The warm and welcoming voice of Joe Dukie, for which the band are so well known, cant help but entice your eyes to close and your hips to shake, however he does not steal the show from the other equally talented musicians.

Electrifying bluesy guitar solos poured from Jetlag Johnson's guitar, some sensational saxophone work from Chopper Reedz, and jazzy solos from trumpeter Tony Chang (reminiscent of a young Chet Baker) lent credibility to the band's true talent as there is no one star in the ensemble.

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Ultimately, Fat Freddy's true power comes from their ability to progressively build a song over a handful of minutes without the audience noticing any time has passed: a step-by-step stroll up a stairway to musical heaven, frequently dotted with punchy jazz hooks and increasing bass.

Wildly appreciated is their habit of never playing hits back to back but rather blending them with an ever refreshed setlist, including Fish In The Sea, a relaxed jam from their new album BAYS.

While the limelight was passed around among band members, the eclectic zeal of multi-instrumentalist Hopepa stole the show. Changing wardrobe multiple times from tux to Sydney Swans jersey to singlet, he was never afraid to dance for the crowd before rushing back to his trombone, tuba or harmonica.

Shiverman was a highlight thanks to Hopepa — on his knees blowin' his soul into the mouth organ — and Thomas Oliver, who returned with his slide guitar for an epic blues number spun with DJ Fitchie's bass-heavy beats. Crowd favourite Blackbird and single Razor also inevitably carved their own summits throughout the set.

After a two-hour journey through Fat Freddy's finest a mental crowd got a well deserved encore, which Wandering Eye closed, with the audience happily singing every word.