May 26, 2003
Lost the boyfriend, kept the music
Some things are to be gleaned from past relationships. On Election Night in '92 I saw Luka Bloom at the Georgia Theater. I didn't know anything about him, except that he was an Irish folk rock singer who was a good guitar player, according to the musician BF. I dutifully accompanied the BF to see this guy; tickets were something ridiculous, like $5. I was totally blown away, completely lost in his music.
In all the times I've seen Luka play, it's always been just him and a guitar. But "folk rock" isn't really an apt description for his music. His songs are frantic, muscular, loud and manic. They're lyrical arrows aimed straight at the heart. The way he plays guitar I'm surprised his strings don't break. He's a fantastic performer - he's very social with the audience, and he moves about the stage with a wild energy. His passionate, keening vocals sound equally at home across a foggy, heathered moor or echoing through a rainy cityscape.
His musical interests range far and wide. When I first saw Luka, he did covers of L.L. Cool J's "I Need Love" and Prince's "When the Doves Cry." Good covers do something with the songs; they don't just ape the originals. Luka made them sound wholly new.
Since that first show, I've seen him at Variety Playhouse when he toured in support of his album Turf, again with the musician bf. Goof that I am, I stuck around afterwards to get my copy of Riverside, his first album, signed, and he was awfully sweet to do so. When I first moved here several years ago, he played Irving Plaza. I couldn't get anyone to go with me, so I went on my own and just hung out with the people I met there - it was another great show that had the crowd whooping and stomping their feet. Saturday, I dragged my friend Mike to see Luka at the Village Underground, an intimate, crowded venue - the perfect place to see a show, where the musician is barely yards away, almost on a level with the crowd.
That's another thing about Luka Bloom and his shows - people don't stand around, their arms crossed, looking bored out of their minds and being too cool for school, not even jaded New Yorkers. Your head and hips are moving in time before you've even realized your body's in motion.
Saturday night, Luka's whole catalog was up for grabs: "Black is the Colour," "Sunny Sailor Boy," "You Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time." It was Bob Dylan's birthday, so he did a cover of "The Water is Wide." A woman named Tracey held up a cell phone so her husband could hear him play. [Aside: This is quite possibly one of the most annoying uses of the cell phone. Why don't we just bring back cigarette lighters?] Luka said to Chris, the husband, "I'm playing this song for your wife, and she may not be coming home tonight." He did U2's "Bad" as well, and in the encore, "I Need Love." He remarked to Tracey, "I notice your cell phone's not on" which cracked us up. Towards the end of the show, Luka gave the lucky gal the flowers that adorned a small table onstage.
All in all, another great evening with Mr. Bloom. Mike's a convert; always a treat to introduce someone to good music. I need to catch up on his catalog. And I need to remember this show the next time I dither about whether or not to see him again.