Jack L, A Month of Mondays

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Favourite things

Edinburgh 2010 – The Famous Spiegeltent – Monday 9, 16, 23 and 30 August, 10pm – 1 hr and 15 minutes.

Jack Lukeman. The best imperial you are ever likely to see.

The heavens opened in Edinburgh on the day of this Jack L show and failed to close again.   The bar area of the Spiegel Garden, situated outside The Famous Spiegeltent, both of which have taken up temporary residence in George Square, Edinburgh for the duration of the Edinburgh Fringe, looked a distinctly sorry and soggy site as the punters attempted to shelter from the elements before the doors to the Famous Spiegeltent opened for tonight’s performance.

Once inside this atmospheric venue, you leave the outside world and the bad weather. behind.  The Famous Spiegltent is a venue of magic and a unique  performance space.  A  circular, circus like structure of mirrors and stained glass, where you can almost feel the ghosts of a thousand memorable performances past, transporting you to a world of cabaret, torch singers, vaudeville and endless possibilities.  It is unlike any other venue at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Jack L, dressed top to toe in black, walks onto the stage holding up a battered and worse for wear looking black umbrella,  accompanied only by Dara Munnis on piano. The reason for the umbrella becomes clear as the plaintive opening chords of ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ strike up.  Perhaps the umbrella is a too obvious link to the lyrics of the song, though it certainly pays tribute to the grim conditions of the day, but this much covered, soulful rumination on human loneliness is enriched by the sparse solemnity of the musical arrangement as is well suited to Jack L rich and powerful baritone voice.  The audience, seated around cabaret style tables in front of the stage, are immediately drawn in and stay that way for the rest of the evening.

Jack L is then joined on stage by the rest of the band for a stomping version of another Randy Newman classic, ‘Lonely at the Top’.  He has already told us that this performance will contain songs from some of his favourite songwriters, such as Randy Newman and Jacques Brel, as well as some of his own material. Jacques Brel tale of randy, drunken sailors, ‘Amsterdam’, is then given a heartfelt interpretation.

It’s immediately clear that part of the appeal of a Jack L live performance is the way that he lives and breathes every song.  The antithesis of a stand and deliver vocalist, he is a showman in every sense of the word.  He comes down off the stage for some of the numbers weaving his way through the audience and round the auditorium, stopping every now and then to deliver a line to someone, as he does on his own number ‘Bedsprings’, which segues into Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’  and later on another song, ‘Stardust’, which he performs walking around the Famous Spiegeltent with just a cute miniature accordion for accompaniment .  This is followed by a song he introduces about a boy who has gone wrong, which he self deprecatingly refers to as “my hit…..in Outer Mongolia”.  ‘Georgie Boy’ is a soaring number whose chorus sticks in the brain long after the gig is over, and this is followed by ‘Rooftop Lullaby’, which does what it says on the tin, a meditative  lullaby which he performs with just him and his guitar.

He gets the audience on their feet for the call and response number,  ‘Little Man’ and they stay there for the mischievous ‘Wicked Way’ before encoring with an acapella version of a favourite song of his Father’s growing up, ‘Old Man River’, his voice filling the venue with its resonance alone, before closing with a Frank Sinatra type take on another Jacques Brel number, ‘Jackie’.  As with all great shows, it feels over too soon.

The band are uniformly excellent, but there is no doubt that a Jack L gig is a showcase for his amazing voice.  He is as accomplished at breathing new life into other songwriters classic material as he is in delivering live interpretations of his own songs.  He deserves to be heard by a much wider audience outside his native Ireland than he has at present and it is to be hoped that promoters out there feel the same way.

Band Credits: Jack L – vocals and acoustic guitar, David Constantine – Guitar, Dara Munnis – Piano, Rod Gilbert – Drums, Production – Jack L.

For the Famous Spiegeltent: Sound – Siiri Metser, Lights – Liam Fraser.

(c) Ruth Morris 2010

Reviewed 23 August 2010

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