Review: Luka Bloom the real deal at the Black Box in Belfast
Black Box, Belfast
IT’S the way of the world that when Christy Moore comes to town he plays the Waterfront Hall while for his younger brother, it’s the Black Box.
I’m not saying it should be the other way round, or that there’s anything wrong with the smaller venue (there isn’t). But it doesn’t seem entirely just that, although he has a dedicated following at home and among the diaspora (his “tribe”), in the nearly 30 years since I first saw him in Tully’s bar in Carlow the younger Moore, known by his stage name Luka Bloom, hasn’t amassed the fame and fortune that less talented people in the music world enjoy. (Easy, Christy – not you.)
More for the tribe, I guess: Sunday night’s gig was up close and personal, its intimacy underlined by the Kildare man’s way with words spoken, as well as written and sung. Holding an audience’s attention for more than two hours without a break with just a six-string and your songs is a big ask but Bloom did it with apparent ease; it helps that he spins a good yarn, putting each song in context, taking the Mick out of himself.
Not too much, mind. Definitely not enough to let there be any doubt about the seriousness with which he treats his craft: even the wistful songs are polished gems; his guitar playing is superb; and, vocally, he can hit and hold notes that men a decade or two younger (he is 63) would struggle not to maul.
It takes a singer on form to do justice to melodies as sweet as those of Gone To Pablo or Rainbow Day or Diamond Mountain and Bloom very much did, giving a performance that had both power and delicacy, just like his songs.
He made up the set list as he went along, chose a sprinkling of covers well too, including his lovely take on Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love and a version of In My Secret Life that Leonard himself would surely have agreed brought something new and vital to the table. I Am Not At War With Anyone he dedicated to Lyra McKee.
While he gave his inimitable compositions I’m A Bogman and You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time the wellie, and while he did sing one of his cycling songs (The Acoustic Motorbike), my one disappointment is that he didn’t sing The Ride (‘I think I'll go for a ride. Take the bike out of the shed. Make a fresh start. Get out of my head’). Ah well.
Some might mistake Bloom's sincerity for a softly-spoken-Irish-poet schtick; however, his Belfast gig only reinforced this rider’s view that he's the real deal.