It takes a certain type of bravery to perform ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ ‘People are Strange,’ ‘Purple Haze’ and, well any Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse or Robert Johnson material for that matter writes Laurence McClenaghan
Jack Lukeman played such a set list when he brought his ‘27 club’ show to the Millennium Forum last Saturday evening.
Unfortunately they performed to an almost empty, but it has to be said transfixed, Millennium Forum. The fact the sold out signs have been hung on almost every other Irish venue the tour visited was perhaps lost on Derry’s gig going public.
This served to increase the sense of self belief required to carry off what, by any standard, is a massive ask. That self belief was more evident as soon as Lukeman ditched the walking cane and sunglasses he wore to the stage. The Athy born singer soon settled into the Jack L standard of classic covers and all encompassing velvet tones.
In tackling Robert Johnson’s material, Lukeman also employed the blues singer’s archaic production techniques. The much researched show is a must for any rock history fan. Jack enlightened his audience with Johnson folklore and mythology before playing ‘Love in Vain’ from among the stalls.
In terms of performance, Jack is at his best when nothing masks those ethereal lullabies he exudes so naturally. He is much more approachable, more human when stripped of his well polished showmanship qualities.
For example his acapella rendition of Jesse Belvin’s (an early member of the 27 Club) ‘Old Man River,’ proved captivating. Then there is Janis Joplin’s ‘Mercedes Benz’ or his Robert Johnson medley.
Though for all their merit, it was, at least for this Doors fan, his take on the Lizard King himself which provided most value for money.
There was certainly more of a musical theatre ambience about some of these performances than there was a ‘normal’ Jack L concert. Which is great if only because it left those who attended wanting more of Jack L doing Jack L.
No more so than when he asked his audience to ‘Keep Dancing:’ The track, the only Jack L original in the show, was not out of place amid the admittedly somewhat disparate set list. A collaboration of course written by Rock ‘n’ Roll royalty (Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Kurt Cobain etc) and tied together through the coincidence of their being 27 years old when they died.
‘Keep Dancing’ was Jack L singing Jack L and we certainly could handle a little more of him living on his own tunes.