Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart @ Hare and Hounds, 14th February 2020

It’s been over 25 years since I last saw Jah Wobble‘s Invaders Of The Heart play live and I approached the gig with a hint of caution as they have produced a wealth of work since then, much of which I haven’t kept up with.  Promptly, Wobble and his band access the stage through a busy room welcomed with applause that are barely acknowledged as Wobble picks up his bass and then takes a seat. 

The first three tracks of the set flow seamlessly and are all taken from the latest album, Ocean Blue Waves, and encapsulate Wobble’s love of jazz. The first two tracks are both instrumental numbers that explore jazz fusion and evidence the musicianship of those on stage. George King’s ability to produce an innovative freestyle keyboard line complements the striking and inventive chord progressions created by Martin Chung on guitar, all held together by Marc Layton-Bennett’s exquisite drum patterns and Wobble’s exploratory bassline. Noticeably the band know who their leader is, as they look to Jah Wobble for the key and tempo changes which ensures such complex pieces remain musically together.

After the third song, Wobble introduces his band and fully engages with the audience through one of his comedic ramblings about life.  Jah Wobble is a true raconteur, supplying us with humourous anecdotes and philosophical musings including his wearing of a white glove as “a mere affectation” to keep up with the young whilst having the theatrical authority of the Japanese police.  The set returns to his early musical beginnings with Socialist originally taken from PiL’s Metal Box album however reworked for The Usual Suspects album including the transition into Doctrine Of Drum And Bass to make Layton-Bennett work even harder.

Wobble clearly has the utmost respect for the drummer claiming he has yet to drop a beat in all the years they have worked together.  As on the album, the song cleverly segues into a cover of John Barry’s theme for Midnight Cowboy, by dropping miniscule fragments into the drum and bass chaos allowing for a dramatic change in tempo to ensure a dreamy version of the classic which was much slower than The Usual Suspects’ recording. Jah Wobble is a true explorer of musical genres and travels towards the use of percussion as a gentle rock riff is being played on the guitar before proclaiming that people are here to dance so unleashing a version of Liquidator noting that there is a dub section in the middle with which the sound man can have some fun.

Unsurprisingly, Wobble’s bass sound penetrates every fibre of your being and he proposes that the bass guitar has no natural predator which on this stage is unquestionable and illustrates this with a version of one of the most recognisable bass lines, Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, as Chung produces a blistering and lengthy solo.  After the dancing comes the cockney sing along in the form of the beautiful Visions of You including a backing track of Sinead O’Connor’s transcendental vocal. This is such a blissful piece of music with its repetitious lyrics and understandably remains one of The Invaders Of The Heart’s most popular songs. Another backing track is used for Becoming More Like God with its pop sensibilities at odds with the lyrical content that makes for a fascinating and groove based song. The set continues with a far laidback reworking of Public Image which he then plays again as a dub version encouraging the sound man to add dub delay that resounds throughout the room.

The positive atmosphere is apparent as the majority of the audience is moving and smiling with utter joy as he returns to the Rising Above Bedlam album for Everyman’s An Island with it’s Arabian influences at contrast with Jah Wobble’s spoken prose. A phenomenal version of Poptunes is unleashed upon us that illustrates the brilliance that was Public Image Ltd and the relevance of the music still remains.

Drawing a comprehensive 100 minutes set to a close, Wobble and Chung stand side by side for a comedic dance for Fodderstompf which has been supremely funked up and pushed the sound man and curfew to the max.  Needless to say my cautious entrance to the Hare and Hounds has been quashed by an utterly superb and musically diverse set, all  topped off with a large dollop of British humour. 

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

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