Jungle – Brighton Dome – 7th May 2018

Photo by Iain Lauder

If the start of the Brighton Festival is anything to go by, we’re in for another corker of a May. Proceedings of the art festival were opened by London’s neo-soul group Jungle who proved that they’ve got more than enough to follow-up their Mercury Prize-nominated eponymous album. Make no mistake, however, because if their London show at Electric Brixton back in November played as their comeback, then their Dome show was their rebirth. Featuring fantastic new songs, as well as their old favourites, it was a gig – and a tour – that made it clear what it was for: to reintroduce the band before dropping their new record. Whether that be new bangers, slow jams or a mixture of the two, it provided another catalogue of euphoric bangers for the Jungle arsenal.

Fittingly for a ‘festival show’, the line-up showed an immense amount of depth. North London’s Tom Tripp kicked things off with his brand of pop-soul. Gearing up to release his second album, there seems to be an increasing momentum to the artist and his support slot showed there was no signs of letting up. Recent single, ‘Loving You More’, sees the influences from his Nigerian heritage, with afro-beat and neo-soul elements thrown in for good measure too. It’s a fantastic pop song and more than warmed the crowd up.

Next-up was one of Brightonsfinest‘s favourites, Rae Morris, who impressed us with her delightfully upbeat Concorde 2 show back in March. Morris is such an infectious performer, that it’s difficult to not get caught up in her sugary-sweet indie-pop as well as her stage presence. Whether it’s with infectious bop ‘Atletico (The Only One)’ as set closer, with its dazzling synths and strident vocals, or the dizzying electro-pop inflections of ‘Do It’, Rae Morris is an exceptional talent.

With the run-up to Jungle’s Brighton return, it was difficult not to get excited just looking at their seven-piece band set-up. It’s an absolute thing of beauty, and it’s utilised with perfection. Opening number and new song ‘Smile’ was received with a decent amount of adulation, but the arrival of the one-two of ‘Julia’ and ‘The Heat’ sent the Brighton Dome crowd into raptures. With ‘The Heat’s light funk and ‘Julia’s colourful nature, the gaudy carnival atmosphere was in full flow from the off.

“This one’s going out on Radio 1 tomorrow night” they announced before playing new single ‘Happy Man’. ‘Happy Man’ seemed to continue the themes set in mega-single ‘Busy Earnin’’ of materialism, atop a precise, coherent style of groove-pop, with both J and T singing of buying material possessions, and concluding, “It won’t mean nothing”. On this evidence Jungle look set to return atop of the neo-soul mountain. It’s ‘House in LA’, however, that is the best new song of the night. It’s a different sound than we’ve come to except from the duo, but it’s no less breathtaking. It’s a psyched-out slow-jam funk ballad, exploring the more stripped-back minimal, less percussive sound of the band. Likewise, ‘Casio’ was a slower prospect, but one that sounds less like a single. Already, on the first listen from these tracks there seems to be another sense of depth to the band – and more than enough confidence to follow-up Jungle.

Of course, though, when you’ve got numbers such as the beaming pop of ‘Busy Earnin’’ and the razor-sharp ‘Time’ (with immense lighting and revolving back-drop) to end your set on, it’s going to be nothing less than euphoric and that’s exactly what this was. There aren’t many bands like Jungle, especially with their mainstream appeal, and this was an immense rebirthing of an incredibly tight and exciting live band.

Liam McMillen

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