Jagwar Ma at Whelan’s – Review

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jagwar-maIt was a jam packed and sweaty Whelan’s that greeted Jagwar Ma when they finally took to the stage to their ominous, pounding intro music on Thursday night and from the opening bars of ‘What Love’ the crowd lapped up what the band had to serve them.

It was quite the interesting mix in the crowd too, as those who looked barely old enough to be there mixed happily with older heads who would have remembered this type of music the first time around (provided they weren’t enjoying themselves TOO much the first time around that is).

With Jono Ma pulling all of the strings from a massive console at the back of the stage, it’s up to Gabriel Winterfield and bassist Jack Freeman to interact with the crowd. They do a fine job of this in spite of the heavily echoed mics making it difficult to make out the between-song banter at times. Dressed in baggy t-shirts and baseball caps, the Australian outfit not only sound like something from the heady days of baggy and acid house but they also look the part as well.

It’s true, Jagwar Ma’s sound isn’t exactly cutting edge and they unashamedly mine the past for all that it’s worth but when they do it so well, who cares? It certainly wasn’t an issue for those in attendance on the night, who happily indulged in a spot of Bez dancing if they could find the room and generally had a whale of a time.

‘Uncertainty’ had them swaying to it’s loping baggy groove that led to the first of several extended, hypnotic wig-outs, while the howling riffs laid against the processed beats of ‘Man I Need’ received a rapturous reception. With Winterfield encouraging the crowd to sing along with the chorus, ‘Let Her Go’ was a real treat as the masses bellowed back “I know you don’t wanna let her go,” at the lazily cool frontman.

The band went full throttle through what was a fairly short set before leaving the stage for the briefest of moments while a continuous loop ran through the air. After the band reappeared and Winterfield reemerged from the red towel that he had departed the stage under, they finished up with a two song encore that included the blissed out Balearic groove of ‘Did You Have To’.

It was an impressive performance from a band whose debut album ‘Howlin’ rightly drew wide critical praise when it was released last year. They sent a packed room full of happy punters home very happy but given the nature of their sound, it is difficult to predict whether they will be able to grow their fanbase beyond those who hold those heady days of Madchester in high affection. Those that are already on board won’t really care about that though. Not if they can enjoy more nights like this one.


Mark O'Brien

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