This is not the same Dominic Fike that fans fell for all those years ago, but a better-rounded, three-dimensional artist.
Words: Finlay Holden.
Photo: Burak Cingi.
In 2016, Florida native Dominic Fike kicked off a series of events that would go on to shape his life in many ways. While under house arrest for the battery of a police officer, he broke the terms of probation and served a year in jail as a result; when his producer dropped a demo tape and sent major labels into a bidding frenzy, he sat behind those bars focusing all energy into what he would do when he got out.
You probably know most of the rest already – the ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ EP would soon achieve global success and bring with it the burden of high expectations, many of which he would live up to – but that initial stain on his record would continue to haunt him when it came to exploring the world. The now LA-based singer has been banned from the UK for a decade, but with immense fan support and “some good lawyers”, the time has finally come for his first visit to the British capital.
“It’s every bit as beautiful as it thought it would be,” he declares from the stage of Hammersmith Apollo, a venue bursting at the seams with fans desperate for their first glance at the established superstar. His UK fanbase may have missed out on the opportunity to spot a glimpse of the buzzy, informative era of Fike’s early days, but the artist standing before them tonight is a collected, accomplished and multifaceted creative at the top of his game and very much still on the rise. Recently appearing in the generation-defining drama Euphoria, featuring on the soundtrack of the two highest-grossing blockbusters of the summer (Spiderman: Across The Spiderverse, Barbie) and having just dropped his second full-length record, now is as good a moment as any to see the man in the flesh.
There’s a lot to catch up on, for sure, but Dominic isn’t relying on nostalgia to prove his worth. Answering hysteric screams with the subdued intro of ‘How Much Is Weed?’, he gives off the air of a performer who, despite attempts to suggest otherwise, is very much in control of the room. At the same time, his free-wheeling attitude is what has always put him in his own lane, pulling on genres and influences at a whim to continuously open up new vibes.
Hazy vocal tones battle with the thrashing choruses as the set continues through July’s ‘Sunburn’ LP, with a four-piece live band stripping back the radio-pop production and replacing it with grungy elements that accentuate the frontman’s gritty image. In this purer form, the vulnerable thematic of the album is even more exposed, and his past is laid bare on the blazing concrete he grew up on.
Tough topics aside, Fike finds his fun in the little moments of improvisation, such as messing with vocal distortion effects and adding new guitar breakdowns to the end of various cuts. Even while performing his major hit ‘Mona Lisa’, he still notices a fan needing water and chucks his own bottle over, later donning the fluffy hat he receives in return (“I stay cute!”). Spontaneous decisions bring to life an experience that listeners have waited years for and make it personal to an evening they’ve most certainly spent a long time planning.
This ever-mutating energy continues as Fike whips out a chair and leans in for an acoustic moment with ‘Dark’ and a currently unreleased track, not losing any attention as he slows down to light up the room and personally observe every eye looking right back at him. If his journey through low valleys and high peaks has emphasised the importance of family and community, that support network visibly grows by thousands over the span of 80 all-too-short minutes.
An electric presence dripping unfiltered charisma, Fike owns the stage and surroundings even with his subtle stage production. Some mid-set banter does descend into comments that would be jarring taken out of context, but so would much of his career and, indeed, life. If you ensure not to take him at face value, Dominic Fike has a lot more to offer.
Switching between vocal, guitar, and synth-pad duties, he is able to interweave multiple genres. “It’s that fusion-y thing,” he describes. “All of these are what make the music mine, and that fusion is why we’re here right now. I’ve been leaning back into it.” There are few moments he truly leans out of it, never really staying in one box for too long. This approach surmises the perspective of a generation; not sticking to any one rulebook, absorbing anything and everything, never releasing two things that sound the same and frankly, not giving a fuck what you think about it. It is only for his fans that he does show care: “Stay hydrated!” he yells before the mosh pits erupt for set-closer ‘Why’.
After performing tracks from his three eras to date, it’s clear this is not the same Dominic Fike that fans fell for all those years ago, but a better-rounded, three-dimensional person and artist – and a sober one at that. “I was a drug addict, a psychopath; I was mad at the world,” he admits. “Not anymore.” This is the power of music, felt in full force tonight. Assuming his visa is sorted, we can be sure to see him on our turf again soon. “You guys have a whole different universe out here, and I want to step into it for a little bit,” he beams. Expect many more continents to be dominated in the near future.