For those Glastonbury-goers who, like me, attended via Twitter and the BBC’s Red Button rather than in actual storm-soaked person, Jungle were an act who seemed to attract a huge chunk of the attention (only overshadowed by Dolly Parton’s hits and some sort of Pyramid power problem). Were Jungle responsible for the monsoon that caused havoc across Worthy Farm? Obviously not. But their modern take on a blend of ‘70s inspired soul has continued to pour over the UK’s music scene, with a top ten album and a Mercury Prize nomination picked up along the way.
Tonight, during a tour that will see them play across the UK and Europe, Jungle played Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a venue they were clearly humbled to have sold out (not that it should have come as a surprise, as every date on the tour has). Fronted by a stunning blend of vocals – those falsettos pitch perfect throughout – and backed by a rhythm section that breathes old soul into these new numbers, Jungle are a unique collective in a music scene so often dominated by trends. At moments there’s a unity that can only be found in bands of brothers such as The Happy Mondays and The Specials, whereas the initial secrecy of founding members J (Josh Lloyd-Watson) and T (Tom McFarland) brings to life an idea of a Daft Punk who took funk a few steps further.
From the glassy synths of ‘The Heat’ to the heartbeat bass of ambient ‘Lucky That I Got What I Want’ and euphoric shuffle of ‘Julia’, the band showed no signs of the strains a year of festivals and tour dates can have, instead presenting their polished debut with even more shine. Unsurprisingly, and while the entire set was flawless, ‘Time’ and ‘Busy Earnin’’ provided the two peaks, with those on stage clearly feeding from a surge of energy being given from a crowd who refused to sit down, regardless of how far back they were on whatever balcony they were on; tonight, limited view seats were non-existent. With the latter track currently featured as part of an advertising campaign, it’s only a matter of time (no pun intended) before Jungle grow into an even more prominent act, and those dreams of selling out Shepherd’s Bush Empire become overshadowed by bigger venues, and the more major areas of Glastonbury.
While chatting with percussionist Dominic Whalley after the show he admitted that Glastonbury was a highlight of 2014, but that tonight was “something special”, and it really was. Those who did not lose themselves were not really there, and those of us who did were taken somewhere else. In short – stunningly good.