9th May | O2 Academy
Photos: Mar Reyes
Riding on a wave of hype fuelled by music critics and independent blogs alike, Jungle arrived comfortably into 2014’s music landscape. Gliding in with edgy dancing videos and a sophisticated pop sensibility, songs like ‘Busy Earnin’ and ‘Time’ ruled the radio stations. But following their energetic performances, they seemed to fall off the Earth. Four years later, they returned with the double treat of singles, ‘House in LA’ and ‘Happy Man.’ Upbeat and full of 70s disco, they have begun their new era with style.
The crowd were thoroughly warmed up by Tom Tripp and then Rae Morris, before anticipation spilled over for the headline act. Starting a show off with a new song was a bold move, one that Jungle pulled off with aplomb. Driven by thudding drums and tropical guitar riffs, ‘Smile’ signalled a tantalising taste for what was to come in a night filled with old favourites and unreleased gems. Debut album track, ‘Julia’ continued the drum thump, and came off twice as epic when bathed in golden lights and bombastic cymbals.
It wasn’t all about the drums, though; they toned it down for sensual stormer, ‘The Heat’ and their latest single ‘Happy Man.’ If you know the band, toning it down doesn’t always mean turning it down. ‘Lemonade Lake’ stood as a highlight in its own right. It was a disco love letter, with desperate chimes of “I miss you” echoing longingly throughout. Only Jungle can make the closest they get to a love ballad the one song that got everyone moving the most.
With 3 years away from the stage, what we really wanted from Jungle was the live debut of the new material they’ve been perfecting. Luckily for us, they dealt out a grand total of six new songs. A comeback show like this could seem like a risky time for so many cuts from the second album, but they proved the risk was worth it.
As far as stand-outs go, ‘Casio’ was no doubt top of the list. Imagine Chic and Daft Punk’s love child. While not as catchy as ‘Happy Man,’ it shimmered with 70s sheen, showing great promise as your new summer jam. Yet in one song they painted a darker and moodier picture ahead of their second album. ‘House in LA’ was dominated by tense and expansive piano and bass riffs that tinged the chorus with a sinister note, not unlike that of a Bond theme. With most of their second album having been recorded in the Hollywood Hills, this seemed a fleeting glimpse of their most cinematic and detailed record yet.
They have a certain penchant for long outros, like on ‘Crumbler’ and ‘Drop.’ Yet rather than stretching them out in a self-indulgent fashion, they sizzled out in a dynamic fanfare. ‘Drops’ ended with an eclectic flashing light show, which preceded a dazzling and mesmerising finish of glorious house magic.
The hour-long set felt overwhelmingly organic. Even though it all felt completely effortless, you could clearly tell it was well rehearsed. This was evident from the synchronised sway of the backing singers at opposite ends of the stage down to the stunningly seamless transition between ‘Beat 54’ and ‘Drops.’
Truth is, their joyous, upbeat funk is too damn danceable to not like. If the night showed us anything, it is that Jungle in 2018 are no longer merely a focused funk collective – they’re ready to break the mould.