Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart: Metal Box Rebuilt In Dub – Live In Bangor, NI

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Jah Wobble

Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart: Metal Box Rebuilt In Dub

Bangor Courthouse, NI - 11th February 2024

This review begins at the end of the gig.  A clearly delighted Jah Wobble has just informed a tightly-packed and enthusiastic crowd in this most intimate of venues that the show has been ‘an event’. He’s right, it has. One that encompassed a bit of theatre, a lot of banter and a hefty serving of superior musicianship.

Jah Wobble

Rewind to the start. No support. This is a tight space with one bar outside and another in another room about the size of your living room and down a corridor. Lydon glares down from the wall, a token of where this gig has come from but also a reminder to put aside what has gone before and prepare yourself for something that is its own thing and not a derivative of something that you think you know. And yet PiL are there. This is Metal Box Rebuilt In Dub after all. If it’s tempting to think of PiL as Lydon‘s escape capsule from the wreck of the Sex Pistols, think again. The heavy rhythms and plangent overtones of Metal Box were Jah Wobble and the late Keith Levene‘s doing, with Lydon‘s plaintive, atonal vocal an embellishment. And that’s why this event works. It’s Wobble asserting his right to be known as the architect (with Levene) of that monument.

Jah Wobble

Wobble has a jaunty green feather in the band of his hat when he ambles onstage, an early hint that this will not be po-faced and downbeat. What happens next is a sonic blur, all underpinned by that visceral rumble as Metal Box is indeed rebuilt in front of our very eyes and ears. The Invaders of the Heart are super-tight, providing a gloriously textured backdrop. But it’s all about the bass and in Wobble‘s hands the instrument is front and centre, the throbbing engine room of a huge sound that pushes the capacity of the modest in-house PA. Sometimes rambling, sometimes thrilling, the dub train passes through all the favourite Metal Box stations: Poptones, Careering, Swan Lake (during which Wobble strikes an incongruous ballet pose) and Socialist and more, including Public Image and John Barry‘s Midnight Cowboy Theme, all interspersed with jocular asides, banter and prose, and excursions to his own percussion equipment. 

Jah Wobble

At the end of it all, you feel that you have indeed witnessed something extraordinary. Wobble is an amiable and relatable Master of Dub Ceremonies – part muso, part geezer. If your mental image of the man was shaped by PiL‘s austere and industrial outlook, you would have been ill-prepared for this clowning and irreverence. To bring the story full circle – yes, there was theatre. Maybe it was schtick. It doesn’t matter. Jah Wobble and his merry band have earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want.