When you know that Jungle – the band whose videos feature unreal dance crews, five year old breakdancers and rollerskating badasses – is actually two white dudes from London, you wonder how that funk and soul attitude is going to translate when they’re on stage performing their self-titled album. How on earth is the punch and grind of their sound going to work when it’s just the two of them behind the decks? The answer comes in the form of a seven-piece live band, an epileptic light show and pin-point perfect execution.
Oscar Key Sung opened the night with the oversized dress and charisma of a nineties croon star, working hard for a budding crowd and bringing his trademark RnB sensibility to smooth electronica. A Disclosure/Craig David lovechild incarnate, as well producing a mix of snappy beats and chasmic bass echoes Oscar is able to throw his voice around in slips and slides that are, well, to say the least… evocative. On stage the man was dedicated to seducing the crowd not only with his silver-tongued voice but also some next-level dancing, grinding up on the decks and frankly outclassing any electronic act that thinks pumping the crowd up involves a lot of jumping up and down and fist pumping. The crowd was left biting their lips in breathy anticipation as he blasted through All I Could Do, with a dance floor all worked up and ready to keep on gyrating by the time the headliners made their entrance.
Jungle became known in the UK in 2013 not only for their unique sound but their anonymity – for months there were no interviews, no press photos, just some amazing videos and two producers calling themselves ‘J’ and ‘T’ releasing track after track of catchy disco-styled electronica. When they came on stage at the Metro they were shrouded in smoke, backlit and surrounded by their bandmates, opening with a scorching rendition of Platoon, and never seen beyond a dark silhouette for the entirety of the show. Watching a couple of shadows perform for an hour could become annoying, but was saved by nevertheless high energy on stage and the effortlessly sassy back up singers, drawing the audience’s gaze with sharply choreographed moves and the synchronicity that makes Jungle videos so mesmerizing.
The energy of the crowd was high from the get go, with beats specifically targeting the hips and pelvises as we were hit with full-on funk to the face. The Heat and Julia gave us all serious groove envy, reeling us in for the big drops and hooks. I am of the belief that more bass and bongos are always a good thing, and the extended bridges of each song, coupled with a blunt cut off to finish, built up such a tension in the room not one person was left standing still. The most impressive aspect of the show, however, was the execution – Josh and Tom are multi-instrumentalists and how they managed to switch between drum pads, guitars and synth while never missing a beat or high-register note was frankly astounding. There were no breaks while they sorted out the switches, just a seamless transition from track to track, finishing with Hottest 100 #67 Busy Earnin and a deafening encore of Time. Jungle sound exactly they way you hope they will live, and even faceless manage to create a cool and charismatic energy on stage that seeps into the toes and hips of everyone watching. Limber up and bring your goddamn dancing shoes to Laneway, because I can only imagine what an audience of thousands is going to turn into once that soul beat starts.
Jungle is performing around the country with St Jeromes Laneway Festival.
Brisbane – Sat Jan 31
Sydney – Sun Feb 1
Melbourne – Sat Feb 7 and also Wed Feb 4 at 170 Russell (tickets here)
Adelaide – Friday Feb 6
Fremantle – Sunday Feb 8