Jungle at The Ritz, Manchester

The psychedelic shimmery of Jungle’s self-titled debut LP on Richard Russell’s XL Records has infiltrated the UK chart market over the past six months, with considerable success. Jungle’s brazen, falsetto-led take on neosoul with minimalistic pulses and echoed dub crunches are melodically impeccable; you’d think the seven-piece collective from London have been honing their gleaning intonations for quite some time now. Their self-evident buzz has been no mistake, that’s for sure, but with such a pristine sound, how well could they cope in a live environment? Are they destined to be redefined clones of Jamiroquai or another attempt at the sound Junior Senior failed so miserably at?

Oozing that panoramic, movie-reel, molten gold aesthetic, Jungle arrived on stage, seven-strong, met by a crowd of buttoned-up, chequered shirts and Noel Gallagher fashioned manes: a typical Mancunion crowd, some might say. I just hoped our characteristically phlegmatic disposition on life was discarded, even if it was only for an hour: Jungle’s sound does not cater for the impassive, reserved type. Thankfully, there weren’t many of those folk around.

Rows of adoring fans bathed in the emotional response Jungle injected; the first twenty-minutes, or so, were ecstatic; opening with ‘The Heat’ and swiftly moving on to ‘Son Of A Gun’ and ‘Lemonade Lake’, every country-folk inspired sweep and lingering guitar riff was new to my otherwise techno-tuned ears. That being said, things soon returned to normality: their sound is a tad tedious and if you didn’t know the words (something I’m quite renowned for), all you could do is hum and improvise. At times, I felt incredibly separated from Jungle’s devoted mid-teen pride, and, you know what: I definitely wasn’t alone.

“Save the best for last”, they say? Well, with only one album to go off, Jungle had no other choice. You did however get your money’s worth during the final third of their performance as they coerced knee-jerk reactions whilst emphatically belting out fan-favourites ‘Accelerate’, ‘Julia’ and ‘Busy Earnin’’. The crowd accordingly assembled on successive shoulders, like a bunch of knock-off Matryoshka dolls while the stunning funk-typhoon of ‘Time’ raised Jungle’s golden pedestal way above the clouds. Their affinity for perfection and their ability to pull it off comes along; their recorded production is tidy and in a live performance, it’s equally as impressive – you tend not to expect that.

Tonight’s album showcase built a forceful cumulative momentum: amplified textures, gyrating grooves, swanky lights, and an animated crowd, of course, meant the evening was entertaining. However, and here’s where I lose some fans: everything felt a little too rehearsed. The rough-hewn edges were airbrushed to perfection, and the encore pre-planned – Jungle certainly stuck to the formula. For some, it worked but for me, it didn’t. Maybe my over-critical, counter-cultured outlook is to my demise; I’ll be the first to admit that, but I’m sure I won’t be the only one to agree that the night was far from magical.

‘Jungle’ is an incredible album and they’ve nurtured a healthy fandom but they might just need a bit more material to be considered a real force in the world of live performances. Their sound is entirely unique so it’ll be interesting to hear how their second full-length fares in comparison.

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