Fat Freddys Drop, Roundhouse, London

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The Independent Culture

While a decidedly freezing December night in north London must seem a world away from scorching summers in Wellington, the Kiwi collective Fat Freddys Drop do their best, despite tour fatigue, to up the temperature inside the gig. It's certainly not an unappreciative audience that awaits the seven-piece.

Surprisingly be-suited and booted, the horn section of Tony Chang (trumpet), Ho Pepa (trombone) and Scott Tower (saxophone) stride on to the stage and set the tone for the evening. Their tight, easy, skanking, summery sounds provide a perfect foil for Joe Dukie's sweet, soulful lyrics. Backed up by one-drop reggae guitar from Jetlag Johnson and Dobie Blaze's keys, the band confidently set about crowd-pleasing tracks such as "Dark Days" and "Flashback" from their last album, 2005's Based on a True Story.

The core to the band's sound is a healthy dollop of roots reggae, dub, soul and funk, all of which is skilfully blended together by band leader Fitchie's sampled beats and bass. It's easygoing, chilled stuff, and Based on a True Story is at times so achingly downtempo that it threatens to disappear down the back of the sofa. Perhaps to compensate for this abundance of head-nodding grooves more suited to a smoke-filled student bedroom, there's a sudden change of tempo mid-gig. The samples come more to the fore and an almost techno dance mid-section takes over. It's odd, particularly with the wealth of talent on stage, suddenly to swap sublime horns for jarring electronica. But the in-the-know crowd has seen it all before and laps it up. Although I head out into the cold night feeling a little warmer, I feel that I haven't yet seen the best that Fat Freddys have to offer.

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