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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

JAH WOBBLE AND THE ENGLISH ROOTS BAND - 100 Club, London - December 7th, 2004 - by yotta-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

Few performers can have taken as culturally diverse and eclectic a musical journey as Jah Wobble (actually it's John Wardle – but apparently this was too much for the linguistic skills of the late Sid Vicious, so he became at some point in the late 1970s Jah Wobble).

And maybe this is what you have to do when you realise your own musical limitations, and those of Dub style bass lines – move rapidly through genres (and like marketeers, never hang around long enough in any one in case you get found out) and surround yourself with a succession of highly talented and obviously committed musicians.
So tonight we have Jah Wobble (“I am 45 years of age and still extremely good looking”), with all the easy humour and latent menace of an East End market trader who looks as though he’s lived life on the outside and the inside, as do much of the audience, some of whom appear to be having a Wormwood Scrubs reunion in the corner.

With Wobble is his English Roots Band, of whom singer Liz Carter and long-time collaborator, piper Jean-Pierre Rasle (yes Serge, a Frenchman playing English roots music – this European stuff is really getting out of hand !) particularly excel. And what we get for most of the evening are tunes from Wobbles last album, English Roots Music, spiced with a few older songs, notably the hit ‘Visions of you’. It’s a sort of Fairport Convention in-a-dub meets the Upsetters.  
And when it's good – it's very very good – in fact almost sublime. But when it's bad – well, you know the rest …
On the left hand side of the stage it's solid Wobble bass – he directs the band, grins, occasionally mutters at the audience in a cheeky-chappy sort of way, and carries on a sophisticated dialogue with the sound-desk (for much of the night) which comprises a single message – “Fuckin’ turn it up !!!!”. On the right a bewildering array of pipes, horns, whistles and flutes, not just for Rasle, but also Colin Bell. Guitarist Chris Cookson divides his attentions between acoustic and electric and is consistently mesmerising.
  What results are pulsating drum and bass rhythms and surprisingly subtle and well defined (when you can hear them properly – “Fuckin’ turn it up !” – or actually, maybe just turn the bass down ?) layers of guitars, pipes and voice with an almost hypnotic effect (Wobble seems to be in such a self generated trance that he fails to notice that half his audience has left with two-thirds of the gig to go). At the end the addition of a pedal steel guitar and percussionist produced what seemed like 30 minutes of largely self-indulgent jamming. Good fun with your pals in the bedroom when your mum’s out shopping, but pretty heavy going for the punters. The result is something of a curate’s egg – which is probably a pretty good reflection on Wobble’s work as a whole.
But you know – at least he tries, and is worthy of considerable respect for that. So if you’re not up on the Wobble oeuvre, then here’s a tip for a last-minute Christmas stocking filler – his just released three CD anthology, perhaps fittingly titled I could have been a contender, which at around £15 is, if you ask me, a far better investment than some dodgy independent bottling !  [censored - the editor] - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate)

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