Looking around at his fellow band members’ instruments, Jah Wobble can’t resist an analogy.
The rhythm guitar, he says, is “nervous” like a meerkat; the drums are like elephant “stomping its way through the musical jungle”; the keyboards are “a serpent-like instrument”. His own instrument, the electric bass, however, is the king, “not scared of anyone, like a lion, it moves at its own half-time pace”.
Wobble’s bass is very much at the heart of his extremely able current band, that also features two Yorkshire musicians, Martin Chung and Marc Layton-Bennett, plus keyboard player George King.
They start a two-and-a-quarter hour set with three selections from their latest album, Ocean Blue Waves. The title track and Safe Passage are both jazzy instrumentals while Take My Hand is rockier, with Wobble rising from his seat to deliver a half-sung, half-spoken vocal while King propels the song with Hammond organ.
Socialist is the first of three numbers reconfigured from Wobble’s days with Public Image Ltd, with Layton-King excelling in its fast drum breaks, before the band segue effortlessly into the plaintive Theme from Midnight Cowboy.
The 60s ska favourite The Liquidator gets two versions – one affectionately straightforward, the other a “12-inch disco mix” prefaced by Wobble remembering the deep sound of driver-only buses that used to pass PiL’s base in Gunter Grove; he then urges the sound engineer to turn the bass frequencies so low that they shake the ceiling tiles in the Brudenell’s main room.
Chung’s guitar scales are a highlight of The Invaders’ take on Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain then things turn wordly with two 90s hits, Visions of You and Becoming More Like God, with Layton-Bennett replacing Sinead O’Connor and Natacha Atlas on backing vocals.
Public Image is also given two treatments – the first slower than the original, the second a dub rendition complete with vocal echo and delay and an instruction to “pump” the bass so hard it will make “everything collapse in the world”.
Wobble insists that he’s “not like all those other showbiz w***ers” then jokingly name-drops Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, two members of Can with whom he recorded How Much Are They; The Invaders’ version stands up impressively.
A jazzy rendering of Poptones is superb, with pretty keyboard runs from King, and there’s some lovely interplay between the keys and guitar in the Theme from Get Carter.
They end the night with another theme tune, this time from 70s police drama The Sweeney, given a funky makeover. All in all, deep pleasure.