Rumble, rumble: Jah Wobble at Talking Heads

21st April 2016

And so once again, I’m happy to say, to Talking Heads in Southampton. The Queen is 90, Derren Brown is amazing and puzzling the audience at the Mayflower, and Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart are just over the road.

Briefly, for those who don’t know,  the name came about when Sid Vicious once drunkenly slurred “John Wardle” into “Jah Wobble”. Mr Wobble- that sounds all wrong- played bass with Public Image Ltd, then went on to produce an eclectic mix of music, involving reggae, spoken word, ‘world music’, Chinese traditional, and lots I’ve probably missed.

Talking Heads just continues to delight on the sadly few occasions we visit. There is a front bar which is everything a bar ought to be, with a jumble of old furniture, excellent beer and, I am told, good food. The sound system in the small hall is excellent. This evening there was even a support band: Sombrero Fallout. They play trancey stuff with a world music tinge, involving bouzouki, trombone, bass and backing tracks, with projections (a little like Public Service Broadcasting). They are actually quite good, though I think they’d benefit from live percussion.

Invaders of the Heart are actually very, very good. Now I have to confess that I do not remember who they all are, and I can’t find their names with a web search at present. There is an astonishingly accomplished youngish guitarist, an astonishingly accomplished and versatile youngish drummer, called Mark, and a keyboard player who is probably very accomplished too, although I’m not really knowledgeable enough to comment. At the back is a gentleman with a laptop, a role I believe known as a ‘beat doctor’ in France.

JWobbleseatedFinally, of course, is Jah Wobble. A big man with a BIG bass: an Ovation Magnum, for those who like the details. Yes, he does occasionally play sitting down. He is undoubtedly the band leader, introducing numbers, checking sound, gently joshing along the musicians and even nodding them in to solos. The music is just totally individual. There is a large proportion of reggae, along with sections that even sound like the modern Soft Machine. It’s just glorious, excellent musicianship underpinned by that rumbling, unique bass sound. I can’t tell you all of what they played; I’m a blogger, not a journalist. So my apologies if any of this is inaccurate. They started with ‘Metal Box’, a PiL number. Oddly enough they played the John Barry theme from ‘Midnight Cowboy’ as well as the theme from ‘Get Carter’. They played, I think, ‘The Liquidator’, and other reggae tracks, with real rhythm and verve. They played those transcendental Jah Wobble songs, ‘Visions of You’ and ‘Becoming More Like God’, with stunning, liquid guitar solos. Another song, ‘Every Man is an Island’ is again positive and uplifting.

I loved it all. It still amazes me that such musicians play a tiny place like Talking Heads. They must enjoy it; it certainly looks as if they do.

So… thanks to the Oblique children for the taxi service. What a treat to go to a gig and have a drink. Thanks to Talking Heads. Go there. And especially thanks to Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart. Go and see him. He’s a unique treasure.

Photo: Mark Iverson from Seattle [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


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