For Jungle, 2014 has been absolutely fantastic year. Having spent the majority of their beginning days dabbling in anonymity, the London duo finally unveiled their identities in a summer which saw them play nearly 40 festivals. Childhood friends Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson turned out to be the two guys behind the likes of early hype single The Heat and the electric Busy Earnin’. Everybody had already tipped them as a great success before a debut album was even released, with said album surfacing this July to heavy critical acclaim and even a Mercury Award nomination. Jungle are finishing the year off with a string of European and US dates, and tonight they took to the stage at the TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht (together with support from London trio Beaty Heart). Read on for a full live review.

London trio Beaty Heart took to the stage just after 8:15pm in front of a relatively full Pandora room inside Utrecht’s fantastic TivoliVredenburg complex. Having just released their debut album Mixed Blessings earlier this year, there was a lot of anticipation to how good the album translated in a live setting. Thankfully these songs translated well, with the likes of the upbeat Seafood and frenetic Kanute’s Coming Round being extremely well-received by the crowd. Despite vocalist Josh Mitchell battling illness, their thirty minute set was very tight and showed us why Beaty Heart are something worth getting excited about. Their music has a very broad variation of styles which encompasses everything from world music to psych pop and rock. The live show featured a very heavy percussion and beat emphasis, something which saw drummer James Moruzzi and their live session member occasionally interchange between instruments. We spoke to Beaty Heart after their show, and you can watch the video on www.youtube.com/allthingsloudtv.

Jungle took to the stage some 45 minutes later to rapturous applause as McFarland and Lloyd-Watson were accompanied by their backing band and two extra live vocalists. As the lights dimmed, the well-recognized whistled intro of Smoking Pixels opened the show as the band kicked into a sharper, heavier version of the song. Strobe lights flickered as early single Platoon got the crowd dancing early on. “I’ll knock you down, brother please” cooed the duo over a fresh mix of percussion and smooth basslines courtesy of Dominic Whalley and Fraser MacColl. The pounding electronic brass of Julia followed, as the two frontmen wailed “Julia, I don’t know a thing about you” whilst backing vocalists Andro Cowperthwaite and Rudi Salmon clapped their hands and clicked their finger in sync with the beat. It only took three songs for the crowd to be fully on their feet as Crumbler followed with a more down-tempo rhythm which was brought to life in a live context. Gone were the silky smooth rhythms, replaced by razor sharp basslines and a heavier percussion emphasis. A lot of Jungle’s calmer songs are far more energetic live, mainly due to the sheer amount of effort the band puts into each individual song in the live set. Layer upon layer is added so that each song completely absorbs the listener. Breakthrough single The Heat showed this from the very moment its opening vocal sample kicked in to the very last second of its soulful funk rhythms, whereas Accelerate went on to feature fuzzy guitar licks and twinkling percussion. Both these two songs demonstrated two opposite sides of Jungle; the former went all disco groove on us whereas the latter let the crowd take a break from dancing whilst still being fully encapsulated by the music. By this point, the pace slowed down even more as the poetic and pensive album closer Lemonade Lake brought us to the halfway point in the set.

As Lemonade Lake’s melancholy and reflective melodies died down, the retro sounds of Son of a Gun were effortlessly mixed with a fine RnB groove that encompassed demure piano chords, occasional guitar licks and clever lyricism. “You made the Elephant run, it took him to his knees” sang McFarland and Lloyd-Watson as they built up to a full-on groove outro. On record you would never have guessed that Jungle’s vocals were courtesy of two young white Londoners, nor would you have expected the vocals to be note perfect live. Every high falsetto was pulled off with exquisite precision as the duo maintained their style of singing one octave apart from eachother to give off an uber-funk feel. Backed up by two top class backing singers and you’ve got a very tight 4-man vocal group onstage. Lucky I Got What I Want went on to keep the pace slow but the energy high as its breakdown introduced a high bassline which perfectly intertwined with the already present synths and electronic drums. Penultimate main set track Drops, the last slow song of the evening, featured another demure piano underpinning which eventually morphed into a synthesizer-led, chaotic outro which saw various pedals and instruments thrown into a beautifully arpeggiated overdrive. This beautiful overdrive made way for main set closer Busy Earnin’, by far the highlight of the night. Having been declared the best song of the year by many, it’s hard to disagree once you see it played live and drawn-out to 7 whole minutes. Its horn-led intro and handclap beats invite you to dance the night away as the percussion is kicked up another notch in accompaniment with MacColl’s dark disco bassline. It’s the kind of bassline which just tells you to get dancing, something which the 700-strong audience didn’t hesitate to do all evening. It was during Busy Earnin’ that a sole crowdsurfer surfaced, much to the after-show surprise of the band who had no idea it even happened. Busy Earnin’ left the crowd wanting far more, which is exactly what they got when the band resurfaced for a one-song encore. An extended version of summer single Time closed the show in pure Jungle style, as the song was drawn out to feature various extended versions of the chorus and a funk-out which saw even the balconies shaking. Jungle left the stage to an amazing sea of applause and cheers, something which they’re slowly getting used to around the world.

If tonight’s show, which was by far the best show of 2014, is anything to go by then Jungle will definitely be even bigger and better come next year. Will they sell out massive venues? Definitely, although their music is ideally suited to these kind of venues – the small sweatboxes where all people can do is dance and dance and dance the evening away. Bring on 2015, because we know it’s going to be a big year for Jungle.