Friday, January 27, 2017

Trudge Life

At one point on stage at the Con Club in Lewes last night, bass behemoth Jah Wobble chuckled to himself that he loves “trudging through the Wobble back catalogue.” If this was trudging, I highly recommend it. Him and his fantastic Invaders of the Heart propelled us through two hours of sterling musicianship, wise-cracking philosophy and some stellar tunes – all underpinned by Wobble’s low-frequency basslines.

It is not all sternum-shredding sub-bass, though: I last saw Jah Wobble in the early 90s when I went to a couple of his gigs in London at the Jazz Café and the Astoria. This was at the time of his commercial apex with the Rising Above Bedlam album and I remember, at the Astoria gig in particular, being almost induced into a transcendent state by the higher power of the rising and spiralling bass on Visions of You. The same happened again on that song last night and on the final encore, a rendition of Public Image’s Poptones, which must be one of the most gloriously hypnotic basslines ever created.

There were other examples of his work with PiL in the seventies: a drum and bass version of Socialist from Metal Box; a skanking version of the debut single; an epic treatment of the sprawling closer from the debut album, Fodderstompf – still with falsetto chant of “we only wanted to be loved!” But Wobble had a life beyond Lydon and Levene and has an impressive range of collaborations to his name: he has worked with Paul Oakenfold, The Orb and Primal Scream from the dance end of the spectrum and, from the avant garde, Brian Eno and members of Can. How Much Are They?, from his eighties' work with the latter’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, gets an outing and Liebezeit, who passed away this week, is remembered fondly as “the best drummer I ever played with.”

These days, Wobble also strays beyond his own material: the Harry J. Allstars’ Liquidator gets the audience dancing – some of it interestingly interpretive – and features an interval with Wobble at a metaphorical mixing desk orchestrating an hilarious zoomorphic description of all the instruments in the band; and one of the encores is jazz musician Roy Budd’s theme from the 1971 film, Get Carter, with flashes of Jeff Clyne’s elastic bassline.

With a two-hour set and three encores, it was a great gig; band and audience seemed to really enjoy themselves and Wobble cut a dash in his trademark pork pie hat as he prowled the stage. At one point he even choreographed some moves with the guitarist and trumpeter - but they were swaying not trudging.

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