Live Music + Gig Reviews

Jungle @ Royal Festival Hall, London

5 August 2019


Jungle on stage at the Royal Festival Hall (photo Victor Frankowski)

It’s fair to say that Jungle have had a good year. They’ve played shows across four continents (North America, South America, Australia and Europe) including appearances at Field Day and Glastonbury, and have saw their reputation soar just as widely. Now they find themselves back in London again as part of Nile Rodgers’ Meltdown Festival (the man himself introduces them on stage as one of his favourite bands in the world).

It’s easy to see why their music has taken them around the world. Their updated take on modern soul is as pristine as it is engaging and they have the sold our Royal Festival Hall crowd on their feet within seconds of taking to the stage. Over the next hour and half, they play tracks from their two albums that turn the venue into one giant feelgood party.

Founders Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson may assume central positions at the front of the stage but its clear that this is very much a band operation. Any sort of individualism is downplayed, something even evident in the way that for the majority of the show their vocals are homogenised into one harmony-rich singular force. They open with the tribal rhythms of Smile which flow into the sparkling vitality of Heavy, California. Inhibitions are shed and the stalls are quickly full of joy, embracing and movement. Beat 54 (All Good Now) provides more in the way of smooth, crystalline sounds and Happy Man is similarly hard to resist. It may be the ultimate case of damning with faint praise but they do the essentials extremely well – perfectly managed chord progressions, indelible melodies, simple lyrics that connect. They dip into their debut album for an energising This Heat and a heartfelt Julia, the latter summoning deep-residing emotion and setting it free gloriously. If anything, they frontload the setlist too much and the mid-section can’t quite maintain the early peaks (although the positioning in the set of the more introspective Cherry suggests a deliberate lowering of the tempo).

The show demonstrates how they are able to transfer the gleaming production values of their recorded music to the live arena. Also, they may occupy a different place musically but they share a similar precision and mastery of detail to Tame Impala. House In LA delivers the most epic moment of the night, all bathed in light while Lemonade Lake reveals some dramatic synth blasts (many of the tracks from their first album are expanded and boosted in striking fashion). Casio meanwhile offers a rare moment when a vocalist breaks free from the group, Rudi Salmon’s sweetly sung outro delighting the crowd. There’s something refreshingly down to earth about them as people but there’s no doubt that tonight was very much An Event, a special show by a thrillingly effective live band.

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