Review: Jah Wobble, Lighthouse, Poole

Review: Jah Wobble, Lighthouse, Poole

By Sam Wise.

Whatever you think Jah Wobble is going to do live, he might. He really might, whatever it is. One thing and one thing only you can be sure of, and that’s that it won’t be the only thing he does. At the start of this show, Wobble wanders onto the stage with the energy of a pub grandad, plonks himself heavily in a chair just by the drum kit and well back from the front of stage, and the band simply begins. This, I am certain, is a ploy of some sort, although to what end I cannot say. The Invaders of the Heart, tight, focussed, virtuosic, scorch through a number, maybe 2, before General Wobble himself ambles to the front of the stage, which is when the shenanigans begin. 

Over the course of the evening, Wobble sometimes sings, he screams, he recites Shakespeare, he dances, he plays an array of cowbells with remarkable dexterity, and he attacks the timbales like an ogre at an anvil. And of course, he plays bass. Thundering, booming underpinning bass that keeps your feet on the ground, and the ground shuddering. The band are as good as he said they would be in our recent interview; Martin Chung on guitar looks as relaxed as if he were at home on the sofa, yet appears to be able to play anything without breaking a sweat. Jon Klein looks every inch the former Banshee as special guest guitarist, narrow, upright, clanging and abrasive in tone, dressed to the nines. Keyboard player George King is ever laconic, wryly smiling at the antics of his leader, while Mark Layton-Bennett is the very image of the drummer, grinning maniacally as he works the skins over. Meanwhile, the Guvnor himself is a powerful presence. Wobble is a lumbering giant, affable and amusing between songs, but the thousand yard stare is always there while he’s playing, and he’s a dominant presence on the stage. 

The plan tonight is to play Metal Box Rebuilt in Dub, a reimagining of most of Public Image Limited’s second album, and they do play much of it, but it wouldn’t be a Jah Wobble move to limit himself strictly to that. They roar through a first set that feels like a wall of sound, and Wobble moves from steel eyed terrifying figure during songs, to an affable Stuart Lee type character between them. He will start off introducing a song, wander off on a long tangent, and suddenly announce “Still, you ain’t come here to listen to me spout all this shit, let’s crack on!”. He makes frequent, and often successful attempts to make the band laugh; “Martin, are you a Specsavers man, are you? Do you like yer corporations and monopolies Martin, eh?”. At a couple of points he strikes up a conversation with sound man, Josh, who appears to be up in the roof somewhere, asking him to turn the bass up so loud that it will induce breathing difficulties in the front row, and to use an envelope filter sweep to make it sound as though the rest of the band is circling us in a helicopter. 

Wobble told me that the band plays 3 hours sets fairly often, and seems perplexed on the night by the request to do two 45 minute sets with a break. “That was a great set, that first one, wouldn’t you agree George? A great set. Just to set expectations, I don’t think we can live up to that again, so prepare yourselves for something of a disappointment in the second ‘alf”. Just watching the man at his work is a great joy, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the extraordinary breadth of music. Wobble appears to be a man who never met an idea he didn’t like, and his discography is very broad. On this particular night, we cover dub, jazz, some bits of world music, a startling take on Swan Lake, and more. By the end of the night, we are dazed and delighted. At no point have we been sure where the evening would go next, and every answer to that question has been more fun than the last. Catch Jah Wobble live when you can; he’s the antithesis of the ancient rocker touring his greatest hits. He is as he described himself to me, overflowing with music and ideas, and you will catch them like an avalanche to the face. 

  • In Common is not for profit. We rely on donations from readers to keep the site running. Could you help to support us for as little as 25p a week? Please help us to carry on offering independent grass roots media. Visit:

You may also like:

Interview: Jah Wobble chats ahead of Lighthouse, Poole date

Groundbreaking composer Erland Cooper brings latest project to Southampton’s Turner Sims

Review and pictures: Paloma Faith – Bournemouth International Centre

Interview: Dea Matrona

Only The Poets reschedule Southampton date & offer low price tickets to make music accessible