The Jigantics are one of those bands that seem to joyfully (and probably wilfully!) defy categorisation, and their debut "Unplugged" show at the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth further emphasised that point to a sold out and rapt crowd. Would you call them Americana? Cajun? Folk? Blues? Well, yes, yes, yes, yes…and so much more. Here is a band at the very top of their game, brimful of musicians of the highest calibre, ensuring that the evident joy that they proudly display on stage is transferred to their audience.
This particular evening sees a totally stripped back sound. Acoustic instruments only and two sets liberally sprinkled with new songs and new arrangements of familiar favourites. Any reservations that the band may have had beforehand about the new format of the show were effortlessly blown away after their first number, a rousing version of "The Weight" that had the packed house singing along from the off. And it was a good indication of exactly what was to follow.
Drummer Martin Fitzgibbon, shorn this evening of his full kit, leads a 5 way stomp through "Blue Side Of The Mountain", with the timber floor of the ancient Tower virtually shakin' all over, with Mark Cole's rasping blues cry to the fore. "Crow On The Cradle" emphasises the deep vocal well from which The Jigantics draw, as Fitzgibbon, Cole, Marion Fleetwood and Lyndon Webb all confidently take verses exquisitely, with all kicking in for a chorus of stunning effect. It's a song that captivates with it's subtle vocal sumptuousness, and the bands arrangement utilises their musical skill set as a whole perfectly, with clever use of light and shade in the instrumentation, and a lessismore approach vocally.
The band obviously love nothing more than an audience who sing along with them, and this up close and personal style of show suited them down to the ground. Their rendition of Tom Waits' "Hold On" is a magical moment as the whole room joins exuberantly on the chorus, and at one stage the band actually sit down to let the audience take over.
"Train I Ride" once more gets the feet moving, with Rick Edwards a master of the tasteful blues lick, kicking the song along with Lyndon Webb's stoically solid ukebass, and Martin Fitzgibbon's understated soft shoe shuffle of his brushed snare sound.
Marion Fleetwood is, and I have no hesitation in saying this, one of the country's leading female vocalists operating within the roots genre. That much is clear for anyone to see, from her emotional, evocative and ultimately stunning interpretation of Jane Sibery's "The Valley". A lone voice, tracing an arc along the 500 year old walls, reverberating into the very soul of the listener.
With the sated audience braying for more, a hattrick of an encore closes with the acoustic skanking rhythms of "Johnny Too Bad", and then there is just about enough time for the band to take their well deserved bow, and head out onto the road for another show in another town on another day.
You may or not be familiar with The Jigantics, and if you're not then why not? This lot can make you laugh, they can make you cry and a whole gamut of emotions in between. Having a great time is what this band are all about, and I dare anyone going to see The Jigantics to leave one of their shows without a mile wide smile on their face. It's as simple as that!
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