Fresh off their 2018 album For Ever, British modern soul/funk band Jungle stopped off in Philadelphia on March 20 as part of their world tour from Kiev to Sydney. Jungle first came on stage to “Smile,” the opening track off For Ever, to much applause from the crowd. “Smile” is an uplifting, energetic hit, and Jungle certainly made a point to set off their performance on a high note.
They then shifted immediately to “Heavy, California,” a catchy rift dedicated to the state in which Jungle recorded most of the tracks from the album, as the band relocated to Los Angeles from London after the lead singer moved there for a relationship. At this point, the crowd had begun to buy in to the swinging, uplifting theme of the show, as “Heavy California” provided the perfect follow–up to Smile. The chorus is easy to catch onto even for a non–Jungle fan, and the positive beat made it almost impossible to remain still.
Temporarily turning away from For Ever, Jungle’s next song was “The Heat,” from their 2014 debut album, Jungle. This song features easily recognizable police sirens and a rolling drumline. In an interview with NBHAP, Jungle singer–songwriter Josh Lloyd–Watson described the process of writing “The Heat,” saying, “You have that image of that hot beach with millions of people on it, sharks in the ocean, people surfing, monkeys driving Ferraris, all sorts of weird shit, people rollerblading on Venice Beach, Miami and Rio all mixed in with this Where’s Wally sort of craziness. It’s that feeling of going on holiday, you’re carefree...” This sense of positivity and freedom was clearly replicated in Jungle’s performance, as the 7–piece band provided an impassioned vocal and musical performance to complement stunning red and yellow background lights meant to invoke the flames of a fire.
Continuing to play songs off the album Jungle, the band next started to play the opening chords for “Julia,” —an ominous, fast–paced beat that ramps up to the signature Jungle sound, full of synthesizer–soul and emotive music. When co–lead vocalist and writer Tom McFarland sings, “Julia/I don't know a thing about you/Soon enough/You'll be all I ever need,” the crowd belts it along with him, embracing the sorrowful tone of the track dedicated to what Lloyd Watson described in an interview as being, “about how both having someone and not having someone can be the loneliest thing in the world.” The sweeping chorus drew in the audience despite the mournful sentiment of the song.
Immediately switching gears back to their latest album, Jungle next performed “Happy Man” and “Beat 54 (All Good Now),” both off For Ever. At best, “Happy Man" was a lackluster performance, a song attempted to critique mass–consumerism without providing any substantial meaningfulness or weight to its lyrics. On the other hand, the subsequent song “Beat 54 (All Good Now)” re–engaged the audience to the groovy, shifting soul sounds of the band.
At this point in the concert, despite some bumps along the road, Jungle had fully brought the room together with “Pray,” the final track from For Ever with a grand violin background and crashing drums. The groovy melody and casual lyrical delivery in their song "Casio" allowed the crowd to sing and dance along for the entirety of the four–minute track. The band continued to deliver hit after hit off For Ever, until the crowd was lost in the rhythm that's so intrinsic to Jungle’s soulful discography.
The band closed off the performance with two songs from Jungle, “Time” and “Busy Earnin'." Arguably two of their most engaging tracks, “Time” was the perfect penultimate song for the concert, featuring lyrics such as “Oooh/Just hold on tight/Don't let in, yeah/I'll run all night.” The final song, “Busy Earnin’,” truly sealed the show, a falsetto–filled funk–fest where the lyrics could be heard being belted from every corner of the room. Jungle had fed off the crowd’s energy throughout the entire latter half of the night, but there was perhaps no greater connection than during “Busy Earnin’,” as both the band and the crowd sensed that the end was near and put their all into the band’s most well–known song.
Jungle’s performance at Union Transfer was unforgettable, and one thing is for certain: Next time this British band drops by Philadelphia, do whatever you can to get tickets if you want to enjoy a soulful live performance.