Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My date with Jack L!

I know, I know. It's been a donkey's age since I posted anything on this blog.

Last Friday, the 14th, we (Peter, mom and I) went over to Newbridge to the Riverbank Arts Centre where the incomparable Jack L (aka Jack Lukeman) was performing. The Riverbank is a very intimate venue of about 180 seats. Even in row 8 it was almost like being in the front row.

This is the second time I've seen Jack perform. The first time was on my birthday a couple years ago when we still lived in Macroom at the Briary Gap Theatre. The Briary Gap is quite a bit bigger then Riverbank and my seat was pretty far back, but it was still an awesome performance. Part of Jack's routine is to walk up into the audience during certain songs, which I think is great. Not only does he get within touching distance, it's his way of personalizing his performance. Most performers stay on the stage, separate themselves from the audience, do their numbers and take off. Not so with Jack. He connects with his audience on many levels. Including several encores.

I really like Jack's music. His deep voice gives his songs emotion and intensity. I especially like when he steps away from the mic to sing. His voice projects naturally without him having to scream or sound like he's screaming just to get the notes out. What's also impressive is how his live singing voice sounds just like his recordings. Not many performers can say that. I've been to concerts where the performer's live singing voice is vastly different from their CDs. In one case, Jack brought out his squeeze box and sang a very soft lullaby called Stardust. The audience was so quiet during this performance. Not a cough, sneeze or murmur in the place. No one wanted to miss a note. It was great. Here's his own video of the song . . .

What else I found interesting was the audience. Most people there were between thirty and seventy. There were a couple kids (maybe around ten years of age), but the majority were well into their adult years. One woman sitting next to us was on her feet dancing a couple times and while in her seat, she shook our row of auditorium chairs with her foot tapping. She was really into it, to say the least. Toward the end of the evening, a woman on the other side of us was up and dancing too. I'm wondering if it was their natural love of Jack's music, or the wine they consummed in the theater's cafe! I'm thinking maybe a little of both! Whatever, they were fun to watch.

I can't not also mention the pianist and drummer who performed with Jack. They were simply amazing. I'm always curious to watch drummers because they normally get so little attention, and because my cousin is a drummer. On stage, Jack sets his musicians beside him rather than in the traditional places, so everyone has an equal part in the show. Jack's drummer held perfect rhythm through the show and made the job of drumming look effortless. On more than one occasion, he had both arms and legs in motion. It was amazing to watch him play. So much energy.

The pianist . . . both Peter and I thought he looked a bit like a displaced Animal from the muppets, with all his hair flying and energetic key-pounding. If the drummer made his task look effortless, then the pianist's playing came over more like he was in it for the craic and not working at all. It was obvious that he loves the music and enjoys playing with Jack. It was incredible to watch his fingers fly over the keys. Hunched over the keyboard, it was like he was stalking the notes. Even with such enthusiastic playing, he was still graceful . . . if I can apply that to a man . . . as if he was born to play the piano. I could have watched him play for hours . . . had I not kept most of my attention on Jack ;-)

I wish I could say the opening act was equally impressive. Personally, she (sorry I can't remember her name, but probably for the best) was not my taste. But it's possible her performance was completely out of context. As she said herself, she was without her band that night. She seemed too close to the music, playing piano herself and singing. She seemed to struggle a bit between keeping the music and vocals together. Sitting at the back of the auditorium, it still sounded like she was shouting rather than singing. And every song sounded the same. I have to say, when I saw Jack perform in Macroom a couple years ago, his opening act, Linda Coogan, was a lot more enjoyable. Her voice reminded me a bit of Janis Joplin, whom I really adore. I'd love to hear Linda play again.

Would I go back to see Jack again, even knowing the opening act is just so-so? You betcha! Aside from having a unique and outstanding voice, Jack's a consumate showman. I challenge anyone not to enjoy his performances.

If anyone is interested in hearing more of Jack's music, either log into his website or check his page on YouTube.

I'm off now to see where his next performance is!