Jungle @ O2 Academy Brixton
You’ve experienced it before.
The minute you leave a show you text your pals “mate, they were incredible”. Where you’re absolutely certain that every other person in that venue with you had a blast.
Jungle at the O2 Academy in Brixton was exactly this.
Now look. Before I begin, I’m not saying I was mistaken with my album review, but I may have misunderstood it. Jungle, aka producers and multi-instrumentalists Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland know what makes people dance and they want to be there when it happens. Here’s what went down.
There was no messing about when it came to kicking things off.
The stage illuminates with the band behind a mesh curtain that I first thought was a COVID safety measure.
After “Dry Your Tears” opened the show and the “COVID safety net” was lifted (what a dafty), “Talk About It” thrust us into action and caught me off guard like a runner chatting to their coach when the starting gun goes off.
It was heavy hit after heavy hit. The crowd edged closer to the front with each track, as if we were playing What Time is it Mr Wolf. We were trapped in a cloud of body heat from the circumference of eager fans surrounding us. And we weren’t the lucky ones.
Enter: big smelly kid brandishing his half-empty bottle of whiskey to everyone like a trophy he’d just won at his year 6 sport’s day. Poor kid was so disorientated, he was facing the back of the venue for the first four songs, staring deeply into my eyes with his phone torch lit, passionately singing his own version of the lyrics. “Does he think I’m Jungle?”, the thought genuinely crossed my mind. He took one final stumble before retching and disappearing, never to be seen again. It’s great to be back.
It was chaos. Like a cartoon where every corner of the scene is filled with someone doing something wild.
“The Heat” and “Beat 54” were the opposite of most tinder profiles and packed a lot more power in person, but still proved the perfect opportunity for people to run to the toilets.
You can really tell that the duo have a lot of input in the production of the show as well. The visuals seem so obvious but they’re fantastic; they’re perfectly on brand. Josh and Tom are centered with the other performers surrounding them higher on the tiered wraparound stage lined with gold lights, similar to Tron, but classier.
They subtly match each song with “Bonnie Hill” backed by a hazy setting blood orange sun and the stage is consumed with a pink and blue glow for “Cherry”. The pinnacles of each chorus are paired with full width blinders that cause you to recoil with squinting eyes, no matter how hard you try and resist.
“Brixton, would you make some noise f…” as the crowd erupts before Tom McFarland finishes his sentence “…for our drummer, George” in which the celebrations somehow jump up a notch.
Honestly, it filled a void.
Since the Euros (shut up, I know) no event has had that togetherness; everyone genuinely invested in and rooting for the same thing.
If I hadn’t been to All Points East a few days before, I’d have said that every gig is going to be like this after the long hiatus of all things enjoyable, but they’re not, and bands still have to earn the respect of the crowd – and Jungle mastered that skillfully.
Being a victim to the movements of the crowd in a room that smelt of feet and cinema popcorn has never felt so natural.
Some of their newer tracks felt like we were unanimously dancing to some YouTube adverts, but it didn’t stop me – or anyone else.
Every performer on that stage was incredible. A lot of people, when they say a gig was good, relate it to how similar they sound to their record – but who wants that? Just turn your bluetooth speaker up.
The collection of energy accumulated like a nuclear power plant going into meltdown and laced their songs with a venom you needed to consume. Every song was punchier and more emotive than their studio counterparts.
When Lydia Kitto’s and Andreya Triana’s haunting backing vocals saw out the end of “Pray” I melted, that’s for sure.
Any subsequent plays of their music is now heard completely differently. I get it now.
If you’ve ever been on the fence with Jungle, or say you like them because all your mates seem to, then going to their
gig party will explain everything to you.
After an hour of pumping beats, Jungle exits stage right, teasing the audience with their return for a solid 4.5 minutes (but who’s counting?). The audience crescendos upon their return.
“Sometimes we forget to play some songs” says Josh Lloyd-Watson timidly into the mic, as if he knows full well he’s told a dad joke, before drawing out any remaining sweat we had for their three song encore.
At this point, the cheering was so loud it went above any audible recognition and just made the piercing screeches of your ear dropping two points on a hearing test. I’m smiling, but I’m in agony.
Josh is standing on his toes doing screeching guitar solos at the edge of stage as Tom is swinging a towel around his head. If it doesn’t stop soon, there’ll be riots.
The arms of fans flailing in the air formed a hazy forest in every direction you looked.
It was one of those shows that seemed to have passed before you could even get a second pint, but you left with a thousand memories.
Our plan was to skip the queues and leave a little early, but that was simply impossible.
Jungle have single handedly brought back that perpetual itch for live music.
I’ve attached the setlist as a Spotify playlist below.