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Jungle Live: A Dazzling Fusion of Sound and Energy

Jungle playing live in Brisbane at the Fortitude Music Hall


The Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane

Friday, 19 May 2024

Photos : Chris Searles

Words : Ben Preece


Jungle records have been atop our turntable for over 10 years now, never quite leaving the 'most played' section of any serious collector and/or DJ who can't resist dropping a song or two into any given night that they're behind the decks. The UK duo have carefully forged a phenomenal career trajectory in the last decade, emerging at this point in 2024 as one of the finest in the world. Certainly one of the best live shows, with a reputation preceding them that creates quite the buzz, as clearly represented by the joyful anticipation filling the Fortitude Music Hall tonight.

South London producer and good mate of Jungle, Mood Talk sets the scene early, playing a tidy mix of reliable party starters that ranges from Sault and Kelis to Moby. It's nothing too challenging selection-wise, but you can't fault the man, otherwise known as Jamie Lloyd Taylor, for his ability to fuse genre-bending greats with deeper, more obscure cuts, suitably prepping the dancefloor for the fire that's to follow.

Smoke fills the stage and a thousand phone screens light up the crowd, poised for Jungle to hit the stage. And boy, do they hit the stage. Paying tribute to the song that would forever change the lives of Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, 'Busy Earnin'' opens the show with a spectacular and overwhelming display of lights and music that sets the tone for the entire show thereafter.

Onstage, Jungle live expands to a six-piece, effectively adding layers of vocals to the backing track. The addition of live guitars, bongos and drums are impressive, stacking up beautifully to recreate songs from the band's entire discography in the most dazzling of ways. While McFarland and Lloyd-Watson take up positions behind their gear, vocalist Lydia Kitto is the secret weapon. Her voice can flip from the most delicate of breathiness to a fierce lead vocal that rings out above the rest of the band, handling all the female-led aspects of Jungle's songs.

There is so much love in the room tonight, both for the band and from the band. They've been on an extensive world tour but no fatigue shows as they move through one of the most dynamic and greatest setlists in recent memory. After four albums, they truly have a cannon of bonafide modern classics up their sleeve now - it's akin to having a favourite disco artist, for some reason assuming that you will never see them live and then have them emerge in front of your very eyes with a greatest hits set that can rival anyone from the last 10 years. From instant Volcano classics ('Candle Flame', 'Dominoes') to For Ever anthems ('Heavy, California', 'Beat 54 (All Good Now)'), the gems are lined up and knocked down in a seamless mix, one moment feeling like Ibiza at sunset, the next like 3 am at Fabric or Heaven.

For the additional artists featured on Jungle records, such as Erick The Architect, Roots Manuva, and Channel Tres, they appear on the screen behind the band. They don't feel like pre-recordings; they are there in spirit, and Jungle does an amazing job of paying respect and homage to those they can't always bring on tour.

The biggest hits from Volcano, 'I've Been In Love' and, of course, the big one 'Back on 74', are used surprisingly early, displaying the confidence in the band in the rest of the set. If you aren't here tonight, you can't fathom the extent of the crowd's roar when a hint of these songs begin, and to receive them back-to-back feels like it may create something of a euphoria overdose.

The show takes something of darker turn about mid-way, the lights flip from whites and colours to a classy and sophisticated design that leans on a lot of black. It's a serious club vibe now for the likes of 'Julia', 'Fire' and 'What D'You Know About Me' and 'Time'. It's an unrelenting high vibration show though and quickly gets back to the diversity of 'Truth' and 'You Ain't No Celebrity', a pair of songs that could easily be other artists but are executed perfectly with the Jungle zest.

Jungle has mastered this setlist and can seemingly pinpoint when an audience's attention may wane, if that's even possible. But just in case, release the huge inflatable balls which reduces every single member of the audience to small playful children stopping at nothing to punch one of these balls. The balls knock out pieces of the Fortitude's chandeliers, but it all seems worth it, although it probably isn't for whoever caught that crystal to the head. The set concludes with a couple of the band's finest, 'All Of The Time' and the biggest stone cold banger from volcano, 'Holding On'. From there, the encore teases the string-laden introduction 'Dry Your Tears' from 2021's Loving In Stereo before it slides seamlessly into 'Keep Moving', a final dose of dopamine-inducing music that seems to double as a parting word of advice from Jungle - "don't go changing / keep moving!"

Honestly, the set is impossible to flaw. 22 songs in total and all of them feel entrenched in the very fabric of 2024 that leaves the audience with more post-show jubilation than this writer has witnessed in quite sometime. Jungle impossibly delivered an incredible 90 minute set of nostalgic yet completely original fusion of funk, soul, indie, hip hop and electronic music that created a beautiful sense of pure unadulterated adoration and unity as fans spilt out into the Brunswick Street Mall. Their music is for the ages, it will stand the test of time and has soundtracked more moments and memories than we can own up to. It's astonishing how they can achieve such while still feeling like the fresh, new outfit after 10 years that tastemakers are still discovering. Mind blown, Jungle records back to the top of the stack.


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