The Sydney psych-rockers play a great show, but avoid previously seen experimentation to slight disappointment, writes Calum Pinder
21st October, Manchester Academy
In the wake of their sophomore album Every Now & Then, Sydney based psych-rockers Jagwar Ma descended upon Manchester. After their 2013 debut Howlin, Jagwar Ma shot into the good graces of critics and fans alike — using aspects of acid house into traditional psych-rock, Jagwar Ma produced a sound that was not unlike the baggy pioneered by The Stone Roses.
With their new album they haven’t deviated far from this sound. Although the album hasn’t quite lived up to the standards set by the debut, the slight techno influences have translated to fantastic live festival performances this summer. At BBK Live, they transformed a sedate crowd into what felt like a seething nightclub, seamlessly transitioning their psych-rock set into an insane acid-house/techno performance.
Given this experimentation with the classic baggy/madchester form, a return to the home of the genre was an exciting prospect and the crowd seemed to agree. They responded well to support act Formation, who have plenty of experience, having supported Foals. Formation played their funky indie set with confidence and zeal. Although starting a little loose, by the end they were well in their flow and had the receptive crowd dancing away.
The scene was set for Jagwar Ma, Opening with ‘What Love’ and other classics from Howlin, they established the tone. With Jono Ma’s work behind the synths and Gabriel Winterfeld’s easygoing lyrical delivery, the band’s hazy beats had the crowd happily grooving. However as the band moved into new material, the anticipated energetic baggy-house sound crept in between the hits. Although the crowd responded well to the moments of the synth and bass dominated dance music, Jagwar Ma never let themselves stray too far from their psych roots, perhaps being careful not to put off the purist fans. Although they put on a fantastic performance, they never quite let themselves hit the experimental highs of their summer shows. This being said, as they comfortably worked their way through new hits ‘OB1’, ‘Give Me A Reason’, and ‘Slipping’, the energy was palpable.
Finally their encore of new album delights ‘Say What You Feel’ and ‘Ordinary’ came to an end, and the crowd, sweaty and smiling, filtered out. I was left with the feeling that despite having thoroughly enjoying the show I had seen better of the band. The freedom to experiment in festival shows had given them a chance to create an entirely new sound which just didn’t happen tonight. I had seen a show which was very much madchester, but could have been more Jagwar Ma.