Since he played three sold out gigs at Brixton Academy last December, Fred again.. has had an astonishingly successful year. In those nine months, he’s sold out Madison Square Garden with Skrillex and Four Tet at hours’ notice, going on to also headline Coachella at the last minute, proving that the trio are the world’s best new party starting crew. His 2022 album Actual Life 3 is also nominated for this week’s Mercury Prize, and in June he drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at Glastonbury. As such, it was barely a surprise when four Alexandra Palace gigs set for this week sold out within seconds, such is the insatiable demand for Fred Gibson’s mix of diaristic storytelling and rave-ready euphoria.
At the first of the four gigs, Fred again.. debuts a new stage show befitting of the arenas he will surely soon be taking up residence in. “Our whole crew haven’t slept for like the last two weeks to bring this whole thing together,” a message from Fred reads on the big screen at the start of the show, and the sleepless nights were immediately worth it.
This new, beefed-up Fred again.. live show retains the essence of his gigs thus far – a vertical phone-like screen plays footage of his collaborators as they sing their sampled parts in songs from the Actual Life series – but adds a host of bells and whistles to turn it into a full-scale, arena-level dance show.
The sides of the venue are adorned with strip lights, while further screens adorn the ceiling. When a mash-up of Frank Ocean’s ‘Chanel’ and Moderat’s ‘A New Error’ morph into the deeply powerful poem sampled in the track ‘Sabrina (I Am A Party)’, thousands of individual lights descend from the ceiling, not unlike Four Tet’s lauded live A/V shows at the venue with Squidsoup.
A third of the way through the set, Fred asks the crowd to part like the Red Sea so he can access a platform in the middle of the crowd, where he proceeds to play his most raucous, rave-ready material including the singles ‘Jungle’ and ‘Rumble’. As he does so, one of the screens on the ceiling descends to just above his head, illuminating him in dazzling white light. While plenty of high-production live shows in the dance world can be visually arresting but somewhat anonymous, Fred again.. adds a blossoming showmanship to the visual power, leading the crowd through a singalong to a mash-up of his Romy collaboration ‘Strong’ and Actual Life 1 track ‘Angie (I’ve Been Lost)’ before a simply ecstatic drop.
While the popularity and strength of Fred again..’s music has never been in doubt, tonight shows that he has both the showmanship and the stage show to take him to the next level. Arenas and festival headline sets aren’t far away.