Jack Lukeman at The Olympia (3rd Dec 2012)
Could Jack Lukeman be the coolest man in Ireland? Based on his performance on Friday in Dublin's Olympia Theatre, he is in the running. This year Jack L played a number of shows called Club 27, paying homage to the famous musicians who passed away at the age of 27. This led to the release of an album with selected tracks from the show. On Friday the 30th of November he brought the show back to The Olympia for a sold out performance.
The show opens with ominous music, leading into the opening bars of The Doors' Alabama Song. Lukeman walked on to the stage from the crowd spinning his cane and launching into the song sounding very similar to The Doors' leading vocalist Jim Morrison and throwing sparkling confetti into the crowd; it was a masculine yet flamboyant introduction. The energy in the theatre was outstanding with the crowd feeding off Lukeman's energy. It was as though it was a foretelling for the palpable performance and display of enviable talent that was to come.
He began the double dose of Janis psychedelic goddess' Joplin with Down to You. The impish humour that Lukeman is known for shone through at the end of the song, as he held the famous note and struggled to catch his breath at the end. The crowd chuckled and the music eased off as he began to sing Joplin's most famous song Mercedes Benz. A definite party atmosphere generated with this sing-along anthem.
Lukeman began interacting with the crowd in his natural, mildly humorous way. He referred to the show as a musical time machine in which he would now take the audience back to the '60s because it looked like more fun'. A black acoustic-electric guitar is donned and they air a fitting rendition of Paint it Black; one of The Stones' darker songs. fitting due to the stage setting and Lukeman's all black attire. His sexy, deep voice is more fitting to song the nasal tones of Jagger. When the middle eight of the song approached, it became very dark and Lukeman's voiced oozed over the instruments. They work their way expertly through a number of songs with their own twist. Songs included a sensual rendition of Echo and The Bunnymen's The Killing Moon and another Rolling Stones classic in the form of Ruby Tuesday.
One of the highlights was Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was of course originally performed by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. It was reminiscent of when Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nail's Hurt in the that it was chillingly beautiful. It was refreshing to hear an over-played song being revived in such a way. Following the haunting version of the '90s classic there was some curious sounding feedback on the mic as the wire came lose. Lukeman's humour shone through as he referred to the noise as an assassination attempted: I hope I live to see 27″ he quipped. Other mention worthy songs performed on the night included Purple Haze and Voodoo Child which bled into each other in a brassy, bluesy version of both songs. The end was a mixture of a big-band finish and head banging finale.
Although Lukeman is a showman, the main attraction of the show was his flawless vocal talent which peaked during a heart wrenching rendition of Old Man River. It was a perfect version of stunning song which drew emotion from the crowd. The tempo picked up again with Canned Heat's Going up the Country, transforming the atmosphere from somewhat sombre to that of a particularly raucous wedding crowd sing along. This led into Touch Me by The Doors with Lukeman demanding the crowd in the upper circle get on their feet, which some brave souls did. They segway into one of his own songs, which was dedicated to all the members of Club 27, Keep Dancing. This was a wonderful moment with sensible, positive sentiments; a celebration of life and there was a genuine feel good atmosphere in the theatre. The show ended where it started with The Alabama Song, the crowd on its feet triumphantly celebrating a thumping end to a sensational show.
This was more of a musical that a concert, and one you could go to again and again and still enjoy it. Jack L is a true showman with a voice that could melt your heart mixed with a dry, typically Irish humour. For this reviewer, one of the best shows of 2012 that will undoubtedly be back on a stage near us soon, if we're all lucky.
Clare Kane www.goldenplec.com 03/12/12
Interpretations Set Jack Apart (24th Nov 2012)
JACK Lukeman (aka Jack L) is surely one of Ireland's foremost singing talents. A native of Athy in Co Kildare, Lukeman is also a talented songwriter and producer, but for me it's his knack for interpreting the work of others (e.g. Jacques Brel and Randy Newman) that really sets him apart. His latest project – The 27 Club – is a live show, album and DVD that features a collection of songs by a diverse range of acts including blues legend Robert Johnson, The Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Echo and The Bunnymen, Nirvana and Amy Winehouse.
You might be inclined to ask why has Jack chosen to record the music of such a diverse grouping. Obviously the quality of the songs was a major consideration, but there is another commonality – something a little more macabre perhaps. The clue lies in the name of the project. All of the artists, or the case of the bands – a member (e.g. Brian Jones of The Stones) died at the age of 27.
As a live concert, The 27 Club had its first audience exposure in Edinburgh in August of this year and was such a success over the course of its seven night run that the decision was taken to record and release it as an album and live DVD. I spoke to Jack recently and started by asking him how the idea for The 27 Club came about.
'It's interesting...I presented an RTÉ radio series called High Fidelity (with Julie Feeney) which was a history of recorded music. It was 30 hours of radio covering everything from Edison to the iPod and a recurring theme that cropped up was that of the 27 Club – starting with Robert Johnson in 1938, to Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, right up to Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. It just struck me as to what an interesting show it would be. Also it's quite historical in terms of rock 'n' roll.'.
So, any offerings as to why all of these artists shed their mortal coil at 27? 'Well, everybody has their theory. If you look at the internet for long enough you can end up at the Illuminati and the idea that they had something to do with it. Myself, I think that number one it's just very unfortunate and tragic, but it really is very odd that so many iconic figures died at the age of 27. People say that maybe if you look at the age of 26 or 28 or whatever, then you'd find a similar trend but there's not actually. It is a strange thing. There must be some kind of “peak” thing in your 20s – maybe people when they're 27 and have had success early on, are just pushing the envelope, but then there's no specific theme as to how these people died either. Car crashes, alcohol poisoning, some from drug overdoses, all sorts of reasons.
'What I try to explain to people about the show and the album though is that they are a celebration of life – of the lives and music of these artists, rather than of their deaths. I'm a music lover and ultimately this was done out of a love of the songs. If anything, it was a cheeky way of me getting to sing Jimi Hendrix or Doors or Nirvana songs – all of which would be very large influences on me. It's also caused me to delve more deeply into the music of the likes of The Rolling Stones for example – I would've always been a Beatles man y'know? And then there's the Robert Johnson stuff...'
Robert Johnson was an American blues musician who died in 1938, and despite having recorded only 29 songs in all, he became a major influence on the likes of Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. 'For me, now having gone in and tried to learn his stuff and play it – it's really complex,' Jack acknowledged. 'It isn't all straight blues. He was jamming the stuff as he was doing it and where changes would normally happen in blues structures he might leave it a bar longer or whatever. Then there was also the thing of his guitar playing which was exceptional. The thing about his was initially he was only a mediocre player but then he disappeared for about a year and he returned as this amazing guitar player. He just went off and practised a lot it seems – he got himself a mentor and developed his own unique style.' Mythology holds that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the infamous 'crossroads' in exchange for the ability to play the blues.
For authenticity, the version of Johnson's 'Love in Vain' as performed by Jack in the context of The 27 Club is done sans amplification to better represent the sound of the 1930s. 'I thought that'd be an interesting thing to do alright. To go back in time to when you had to use the old turbine within you rather than rely on PA technology. On the DVD there's also a couple of other Johnson songs, “Hot Tamales” and “Crossroads” – they were fun to do as well, but “Love In Vain” is such a beautiful song to do. It still stands up against anything around at the moment as just a beautiful song.'
So why the decision to record the album in a live setting as opposed to the more controlled environment of a recording studio? 'Sometimes in the studio you can “overcook” stuff – you can overproduce things. I think with the live thing, well that captures something that cannot be captured in the studio because in a way it's a different medium. It's a bit like the difference between theatre and TV. Instead of saying it's a live album, I prefer to refer to it as an album recorded in front of an audience if that makes any sense. We recorded the two nights in the National Concert Hall after coming back from Edinburgh and we picked the best performances over the two nights.'
Given that the whole concept for The 27 Club stemmed from the High Fidelity radio series, I asked Jack how that had come about in the first place. 'Well, the producer Helen Shaw used to come to my gigs and we had spoken about doing something with regard to the history of music. She proposed this idea, and while I wouldn't consider myself as a DJ or anything, something like that for any music fan was a fantastic thing to do. It was a bit like doing a thesis and I really learned so much. There's talk of maybe doing a 27 Club special kind of thing and I do have a couple of other ideas for radio shows so who knows? But like I say, I see myself as a song and dance man more so than a DJ.'
While always keeping his base in Ireland, Jack does spend a significant amount of time working abroad. 'Well I spent nearly half of this year in America. I've been doing a lot of work with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra – Sinatra's old “backing band” if you like. Riddle's son is conducting the orchestra and I've done a couple of tours with them. It's really wild to be singing those amazing arrangements and songs.'
A show in America a couple of years ago stands out in Jack's mind as a particular favourite.
Yeah, I did have a great moment a couple of years ago. I did a big show in New York with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra – it was outdoors, down one of the piers looking back in on the city with fireworks behind and I'm singing “New York, New York” to thousand of New Yorkers. I found myself thinking, “Well this is pretty cool!”
'I love singing. It's a very enjoyable thing to do. Call it cathartic, call it spiritual, it's just a beautiful thing to do.'
The 27 Club is available now and Jack will be bringing the show to the Everyman Palace in Cork on March 30th 2013
Niall O'Driscoll, The Southern Star, November 24th 2012
Jack Lukeman - 'The 27 Club' (13th Nov 2012)
It's a neat idea for an album/show. On this live recording, the artist formerly known as Jack L has gathered together no less than 19 songs of disparate styles, genres and eras, with just one thing in common. The '27 Club' is of course that distinguished group of artists who have shuffled off this mortal coil at the tender age of just 27, including the Stones' Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, among others. Lesser known members include Echo & The Bunnymen's Pete de Freitas, Big Star's Chris Bell and the Manics' Richey Edwards (who is presumed dead).
Lukeman has already staged this show to rave reviews at the Edinburgh Festival and this version, recorded at Dublin's NCH is also due out on DVD (and vinyl!). His interpretations range from fairly straightforward versions (the Stones' 'Paint It Black' and 'Jumping Jack Flash', the Bunnymen's 'Killing Moon') to fairly radical reworkings such as Hendrix's 'Purple Haze' which sounds the way it might have been done by French duo Air and Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', which is re-imagined as a drawing-room ballad. Other highlights include a poignant take on Amy Winehouse's tender ballad, 'Love Is A Losing Game', a nice tribute to the Manics with 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and Big Star's gorgeous ballad of teenage love 'Thirteen' (recorded in the past by Wilco and Elliot Smith). The Doors' doomed frontman is represented by no less than three songs, including Brecht's 'Alabama Song' (no stranger to Lukeman's set over the years), 'The Crystal Ship' and an epic take on 'Touch Me'.
It goes without saying that Lukeman's powerful voice and dramatic showmanship brings out the very best in these songs, while the musical backing (including brass and strings) makes for a thrilling ride. Now: to see it live!
Colm O'Hare. Hotpress 13/11/12
Jack Lukeman's '27 Club' at the National Concert Hall Dublin (19th Aug 2012)
Perhaps the truest adage in rock n' roll is that death sells. The premise of Jack L's latest show revolves around popular culture's morbid fascination with the so-called "27 Club", referring to the premature death of so many rock stars. The "27 Club" gained special notoriety after the death of Kurt Cobain aged 27 and was tragically reprised last year when the world lost the terrific voice that was Amy Winehouse also aged just 27.
On paper, this seams like a terribly tacky idea to extract a show from but Jack Lukeman deserves credit for executing the concept perfectly to deliver and absorbing and even touching production. Ultimately, this is about celebrating music and life rather than glorifying self-destruction and death. Lukeman uses a full band including brass and string sections to beef up an intriguing selection of covers. A splendid version of "The Killing Moon" by Echo & The Bunnymen is an early highlight. This classic by the legendary Liverpool band is included as their former drummer Pete Louis Vincent de Frietas died at the same tragically young age.
Another inclusion is a little more tenuous. The body of Richey Edwards, formerly of the Manic Street Preachers, was never found. I've never heard of him referred to as one that horrible clique before but the the bottom line really is that Jack L performs a marvellously tender rendition of "Motorcycle Emptiness". Lukeman wisely resists the obvious temptation to ape Jim Morrison or Mick Jagger (no, he's not dead but former Rolling Stone Brian Jones) and makes each song his own. The range and quality of his voice has been well documented, but when he tackles these well known standards, the proof truly is in the pudding and Lukeman is arguably one of the finest vocalists this country has produced.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" is rendered as a stripped back piano track and Jimi Hendrix "Purple Haze" is transformed into the kind of atmospheric dream pop you'd normally hear from the likes of Air. It's not all as effective Nirvana's Lithium is a bit on the hammy side. However its relentlessly entertaining and there is never a dull moment.
Jack L triumphs in unexpectedly tackling a grisly premise and turning it into a great night out. Therein lies the rub that ultimately Dylan is right after all about death not being the end.
The artists chosen for Lukeman's new show don't just have a tragically early demise in common, but amazing and timeless music that will still be thrilling generations to come.
Eamon Sweeney. Irish Independent 21/8/12
Jack Lukeman: The 27 Club (Aug 2012)
The 27 Club isn't a club, it's a way of life. Or, to be exact, death. Dublin singer-songwriter Jack Lukeman is becoming an August Edinburgh regular, but this year his show is a little different. Ostensibly a set of covers of some of his own favourites songwriters, tonight's material is drawn from that mythical collective of musicians who have succumbed to the clutches of their maker - or, in some cases, Satan - at that early age.
Following a video inventory of the 'club's members, Lukeman and band fire up their Musical Time Machine with a rumbustuous 'Alabama Song' qualifying via Jim Morrison. Brecht is not part of the team proper, living to a relative ripe old age of 50, but for a showman such as Lukeman his barroom ballad is an ideal opener.
Janice Joplin is a Marmite thing I guess I prefer cats to be put down quietly and humanely but her stodgy blues is given some new life by Lukeman, who is clearly a fan. As must be the case with the Rolling Stones as Brian Jones' part in the group is acknowledged by a man who has a better voice than Jagger. The dead-at-27 guitarist's work is reproduced faithfully on a stripped-back version of 'Paint It Black', though 'Ruby Tuesday' could be seen as overkill given the 75 minutes allotted to squeeze in what, 50 acts?
Of course, what we get is a selection, hand-picked by our host. So while it would have been nice to hear something by the Minutemen, or The Gits, or even Jacob Miller, they are consigned to mere footnotes in this musical history. We do get the Bunnymen's 'Killing Moon' co-written by Pete De Freitas, it is of course more about Ian McCulloch's best-known and most trademark vocal, but happily, Lukeman nails it while putting his own distinctive stamp on the song.
A more obvious entrant into the morbid hall of fame is Kurt Cobain the grunge icon's mother famously decrying that stupid club. Our host is the perfect shaman and showman, with visuals that combine his silhouette with a live video feed, as monochrome images of the departed flicker past. Or in the case of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', the lyrics stack up to form a shrine around the Seattle singer's picture. From then on it's a race against time for the audience as we try to imagine who will be next on the roll call.
To long-term Lukeman fans the show is an odd idea given Lukeman's song writing prowess - he always throws in the odd cover version, but even his Brel-themed show last year was a mix of his own material and that of Belgium's greatest export.
Robert Johnson is first on tonight's timeline (Louis Chauvin and Alexandre Levy absent tonight) and we get 'Love In Vain' stripped back to mandolin and vocal as Lukeman takes his instruments on a tour of the auditorium to great effect. Conversely, Hendrix's 'Purple Haze' is less successful, perhaps due to being devoid of its trademark lead guitar. Conversely, 'The Crystal Ship', one of three Doors songs, is a genuine show-stopper, displaying the singer's remarkable voice to full effect. Meanwhile, a simple acoustic 'Up on the Roof' for original Drifter Rudy Lewis is another high point, while Big Star's '13' (co-written by Chris Bell), is perhaps the most obscure tune on the list but one of tonight's best.
The hour-and-a-quarter passes remarkably fast, but there's time for an encore - and although Lukeman has successfully navigated his way past the 27 mark, he slips in a cheeky self-penned 'dedication' to the dead. But 'Keep Dancing' is one which shows that as a songwriter, his own material ranks alongside anything else featured tonight. Roll on next year, and indeed, his next album.
Opening night 5 star reviews for Jack at Edinburgh Fringe (Aug 2011)
First a few organisational details. Jack Lukeman is from Ireland and his show in Assembly 2 does not appear in the Fringe booklet because he is a very late addition to the Assembly schedule. He will be appearing up to 29th August; 21.10 - 22.10.
Now on to his show. I have not seen him perform before, but quite simply he blew me away. Within seconds of appearing on stage, I know he has a confident stage presence. As he is performing his first song 'Lonely at the Top', I realise he has a powerful and melodic voice with a tremendous vocal range. After a few songs, it is obvious he can put a song across and can convey such meaning to the lyrics.
When he says he is going to perform songs including selections from Randy Newman and Jacques Brel, I know I am in for a treat because these are song writers whose lyrics demand an assured and stylish performance, and this he delivers.
There is one huge surprise in that half way through his act he dispenses with his three piece band and walks around the auditorium as he sings a slow and moving sea shanty accompanying himself on a tiny accordion.
He is also able to strike up a great rapport with the audience. We are joining in the choruses, clapping along and even clicking fingers. His final number is a brilliant extended version of Brel's 'Jacky'.
This week if you have the chance, take the opportunity to see his show. His performance oozes class
Ben - one4review *****
Jack L at the National Concert Hall
If ever there was a natural-born showman, Jack Lukeman (aka Jack L) is he. Taking to the stage in the National Concert Hall to perform any number of classics, forgotten album tracks and even some new material, the performer managed a two-and-a-half hour set list which even included an impromptu version of The Stranglers Golden Brown performed during the intermission. Yes, thats right, Jack L sang his way through his own intermission.
For those foreign visitors who might not be familiar with the artist, Ive embedded a version of Georgie Boy below, the crowd-pleaser that he used as the final song in his encore last night. Its powerful stuff, even when not backed by an orchestra.
will concede I am not a huge Jack L fan. Ive always admired and respected the performer, who also managed to seem both immensely talented and readily approachable I recall a phase during the early point of the decade where he was a regular guest on Irish television and radio performing his own arrangements of modern pop songs, all of which somehow sounded intensely classy coming from the mouth of the Athy-born singer. I was there with my better half, a dyed-in-the-wool Jack L fan
And, as a person with no special investment in the artist, knowing a few random lyrics and struggling to name his biggest hit, I had a fantastic time. Part of it was simply the fact that, as a stage performer, Jack L was giving everything he had. From subtle pantomime to the more theatrical lyrics to the use of the space on the stage, he knew how to maximise the impact of his performance. He also knew how to play to his audience, displaying a warm and charming sense of humour about himself and even the gig in honour of the events primary sponsor, the ESB, he turned off the lights, electronics and even his microphone at one point to take to the stage with an old accordion for a rendition of Stardust Falling From Your Eyes.
At other times, he was working with a string section and pianist to create a rather powerful ambient sound. His voice is, simply put, incredible. My defining memory of the singer comes from listening to the Ray Darcy Show on Today FM. I remember that he was discussing Brel, and he performed his own rendition of The Port of Amsterdam. I was just blown away by it its a powerful song, but it would take years until I discovered a version which came close to matching Jack Ls intensity, in the David Bowie version from his oft-ignored Pin-Ups album.
The crowd surged with energy despite a few early hints of hesitation when invited to sing along to the final lines of one of the first songs, the entire auditorium was on its feet and clapping along to the final few numbers by the end of the night. If we were still allowed to smoke indoors, I reckon we might even have seen a raised lighter or two swaying along to the singers words as he played. By the time hes snuck out to the John Field Room (as much as the star of the nights entertainment can sneak out to the bar area at his own concert), the audience was safely in his thrall.
I really enjoyed the evening. I'd been unable to get tickets to the surprise film at the end of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, so this concert served as something as a finale to a fairly hectic (but highly enjoyable) weekend. And it certainly was a fitting one. Despite the exhaustion of trekking around the city centre for two days (after five days of work), the Kildare singer managed to energise me to the point that I was clapping along with the best of them sure, I was out of rhythm, but at least I was trying.
Spiegel Tent (Edinburgh Fringe Festival)
There are Fringe favourites who return, like clockwork, every year, and whose fans eagerly await their chance to buy their annual tickets. In a world where this is true, it seems a travesty that there is even space for a humble reviewer (who had never heard of Jack Lukeman until this month) to attend this gig. With only five performances at the Famous Spiegeltent this month, Jack L's "Month of Mondays" should have long ago sold out.
Stalking round the Spiegel Tent like a deranged elf, Jack L oozes a unique blend of menace and charisma. The woman swoon, the men sigh: this is what cool looks like. And indeed sounds like- Lukemans voice fills every corner of the Famous Spiegel Tent, wrapping his audience in a swirl of silken sound til they sit, hypnotised in the face of this most elegant aural assault.
In this state of rapture, the audience are powerless to resist Jack L's requests. When we are asked to clap, we clap. When Lukeman urges us to let loose any primal noise lurking in our depths as part of the chorus, we wail and stamp our feet and scream ourselves hoarse. When Lukeman bids his audience to gather close so he can whisper the secret of life, every member of the audience and the bar staff press forward to the centre of the tent, surrounding the singer who is perched on a chair. When the show finishes, we stumble into the rainy night, slightly stunned at what we have witnessed, knowing we have been part of something very special indeed.
It is to this reviewer's eternal shame that Jack Lukeman has stayed under her radar until now, but the good news is that he still has one more Monday left at the Spiegel Tent, and there is still a chance to close your Fringe with this most magnetic and talented of performers. Buy your tickets now, if there is any justice in the world they will not be easy to come by in future.
Julie Dawson - Edinburgh Spot Light
The Evening Herald (Vicar Street, Dublin)
It's a rare thing these days to go to a gig and be blown away by an act that leaves you dazed and confused about the whole experience.
Nevertheless, that was the abiding impression after seeing Jack Lukeman. That and his all-black attire (even his signature acoustic guitar matched his dark, spiky locks). "Feel free to sing along" chuckled the Athy man. "But preferably in the right tune, and preferably the same song that I am singing!"
Performing classics along with belters from his latest album Broken Songs, Lukeman was soon making his way through an excited crowd and climbed onto one of the tables on the floor. Armed with nothing but a small accordion, he asked for total silence and launched into what was probably the most surreal moment of the entire night. "This is the way they used to do it back in the 1800s," laughed the man, with a voice that penetrates you like a bullet.
Back on stage, the rock show truly got off to a start when every seat of the venue was ignored when Jack sang Folsom Prison Blues and Gnarls Barkley's Crazy.
Returning for one last encore, he kept everybody captivated again as he sailed through Hallelujah completely unaccompanied. Tears were shed and spines were tickled. I am still baffled as to what I saw and heard, but I know it was something special.
Chris Wasser - Evening Herald, Herald AM.