Sunday, 10 February 2013

Luka Bloom @ Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow - 25 October 2008

- Scottish launch of ELEVEN SONGS -

- on the Martin classical guitar -
Diamond Mountain
There Is A Time
I Love The World I'm In
Make You Feel My Love
City of Chicago
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
I Am Not At War
Peace On Earth
Eastbound Train

- on 'Rudy' -
Dreams In America
Gone To Pablo / Te Adoro
Acoustic Motorbike
Sunny Sailor Boy
I'm On Your Side
The Man Is Alive / Hill Of Allen

- encore -
Perfect Groove
You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time
See You Soon
Thank You For Bringing Me Here


Martyn Joseph @ Bush Hall - 30 November 2008

When I went to see Luka at the Komedia in Brighton, I sat at the same table with a local couple who had come along that night purely on the back of hearing Luka chatting on local radio that very morning. They thought he sounded like someone they'd like... so they got tickets and came along. They were won over and as we were chatting after the show, they said "If you like Luka, then you'd also like Martyn Joseph". Never heard of him. Never mind, went home and looked him up.  And booked tickets for his next show in London, that coming November. In the meantime though I didn't find the time to listen to his music or watch YouTube videos or anything, so I arrived at Bush Hall with really no idea what to expect. Well. If you can judge an artist by his fans, then I figured out pretty quickly that he was going to be good - perfect strangers in the queue outside were chatting and laughing with one another. Inside, I got a seat right up front centre. The guy next to me struck up a conversation and we had a grand time recommending other artists to each other.

Then Martyn leapt on stage already playing a plugged-in acoustic guitar and singing into a wireless mic...

And I was blown away by that rare artist who is equally engaging as a singer and a musician, with songs with equally strong lyrics and melodies. The lyrics perhaps are Martyn's particular strength: he's Welsh and a natural storyteller with an incredible facility for putting words together in ways that are vivid, evocative and with remarkable rhythm.

Highly recommend you have a listen to this overlooked talent:

In the absence of videos, I offer a potted set list and a few photos.  Where I'm unsure of 'official' song titles, I've noted partial song lines.

Strange Way
Beautiful [Things That We Have Carried Here]
   ~someday they'll disappear
   skin and bone - death and stone
   things that we have carried here
   freedom needs a volunteer
   to be beautiful
   can be beautiful
Arizona Dreams
Help Me Find That Man
All This Time [The Sum Of All These Parts Are We]
Dic Penderyn
Free Fallin' (by Tom Petty)
The Good In Me Is Dead
Weight Of The World [Now here are lyrics worthy of serious study!]
Sing To My Soul [If I wasn't won over by this point, this song did it.]
Kiss The World Beautiful [reminded of John Gorka]
This Being Woman
We Are Men [introduced by reading of a Dylan Thomas poem and a reference to Glen Hansard that went straight over my head at the time!]
I Have Come To Sing [Hope Love Peace Mercy]
Lonely Like America (new song)
Can't Breathe
Proud Valley Boy
Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home
Change Your World [which segued into what I believe was some sort of medley]

Vegas [with a remarkable story and an even more remarkable Elvis impersonation]
Turn Me Tender 

Went straight home and bought his latest album 'Evolved'.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Luka Bloom @ Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush - 23 October 2008

Bush Hall, Shepherd's Bush, London
23 October 2008

- English launch of ELEVEN SONGS -


- on a classical guitar -
There Is A Time
I Hear Her, Like Lorelei
Make You Feel My Love
I Love The World I'm In
City of Chicago
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
See You Soon
Peace On Earth
Eastbound Train

- on Rudy -
Exploring The Blue
Gone To Pablo / Te Adoro
Dreams In America
Sunny Sailor Boy

- encore -
Acoustic Motorbike
Perfect Groove
You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time
Joy Of Living

Luka Bloom @ Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul - May 2009

Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul
Saturday, 2 May 2009Support by Michelle Ann Kelly accom. by Ciara Brown

Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre - "old" looking building with a thatched roof but there's something about it that makes me wonder if it's actually all quite new. The venue hall itself is a "barn-like" structure behind the SE centre with a courtyard between the two. The hall is long and narrow with stage at one end. Stage door at the back opens straight out into an alley, with a drop of about two feet. Michelle Ann and Ciara (support) climbed in bravely in their heeled sandals. Luka was better prepared - he bounded up and in, tea mug in hand and nary a drop spilled.

Lovely summer evening when we started - what a shock it must have been when he left the stage the first time, to open that door straight into a downpour! He said afterward that it seems every time he plays MONSOON, it begins to rain before the show has ended. Happened in Australia on a couple of occasions. Wishes he'd sung it in Melbourne, though it's more than just rain they need there.

The stage lights were really dim and apparently couldn't be turned up - so Luka asked if we minded having the lights kept on over us as well. Because of course "it's more fun with the lights on"(!)

1. I Am Not At War
2. Tribe
3. I Love The World I'm In
4. Primavera
5. Make You Feel My Love
6. June
7. City Of Chicago
8. No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
9. See You Soon
10. Eastbound Train
11. Love Is A Monsoon
12. Rainbow Day
13. Everyman
14. Lord Franklin
15. Acoustic Motorbike
16. Sunny Sailor Boy
17. You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time
- Encore -
18. I'm On Your Side
19. Diamond Mountain
20. I Need Love
21. Black Is The Colour

Luka told a few stories from the Australian tour - though not the one about nearly drowning!

There was the time he persuaded Conor and the roadies to give him a few minutes to say goodbye to a particular beach before moving on to the next town/gig.... He stood just barely into the water, waves lapping his ankles, with his head tilted back and his eyes closed.... only to get splashed to his waist by a rogue wave! So in the next town he spies a sign saying "SALE" in a clothes shop window, goes in and is flicking through the rack of shorts, when a young sales woman steps up beside him, puts her hand on his shoulder and says: "awww, had a little accident, granddad?"

Straight-talkin' Australian women. Even more so than Irish women - apparently (!)

No Rudy tonight - but the Lakewood stepped in quite ably!! Great to finally hear it after being teased by its silent presence several times.

Plus LORD FRANKLIN (signature tune of Micheal O Domhnaill, guitarist with the Bothy Band) -- which Luka said he learned recently out of love and respect for Micheal but has never played in public before.

Oh, and JUNE - first time I've heard this live - it's never been a particular favourite but this was gorgeous.

Then I NEED LOVE - so many cat calls, wolf whistles, ribald comments! About two-thirds through, Luka just bust up laughing! I wasn't sure if he would (or could) continue but he bravely pulled it together - and then used the long "make-yourself-seen" space, not to give long searching stares, but to give back as good as he'd been getting!!

Altogether the evening was a bit more saucy (!!) than usual...
Although, as always, a totally Class Act. Great songs, great spirit, great show.

(Originally published 2009 at

Luka Bloom @ Royal Spa Hotel, Lisdoonvarna - 31 July 2008

Royal Spa Hotel, Lisdoonvarna
Thursday, 31 July 2008

Following the informality and irreverence of the Malone's gig, the Royal Spa Hotel was a much more civilised setting for this, the last concert of the 'Summer Nights' Tour. The attendance was not much higher than in Malone's (about 130, I understand), but the Hotel venue is at least 4-5 times the size of the room in Malone's, with the chairs here set out in sedate rows with ample legroom, and a good-sized stage - which Luka had all to himself!

The mood was friendly and relaxed, with the audience giving Luka a warm, affectionate reception and their undivided attention and respect the whole evening – no interruptions or heckling tonight! Luka himself seemed in a mellow mood and chose to feature songs with connections to the local area: songs about places in Clare, especially the Burren, which reflect his attachment to the area, and songs he has written while visiting or staying in Clare over the years.

The introductions and stories were more or less the same ones he has been telling for these songs over some time, with possibly one notable addition: he related a funny anecdote about Mohamed (which had nothing at all to do with the song inspired by Mohamed's journey from Algeria to Galway, No Matter Where You Go, There You Are), about how he got to know Mohamed in Amsterdam and noticed that he didn't abstain from alcohol and the 'wacky baccy', so he asked him how that fit in with being Muslim. Mohamed's reply: "I'm an easy Muslim." Luka understood that immediately, having known a fair few 'easy Catholics' in his time – and perhaps counting himself amongst them!

Luka Bloom SET LIST:
Water Ballerina
Thank You For Bringing Me Here
Eastbound Train
I Love The World I'm In
Make You Feel My Love
Diamond Mountain
City Of Chicago
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
Peace On Earth
Te Adoro / Exploring The Blue / Te Adoro
I'm On Your Side
Every Man
When Your Love Comes
Acoustic Motorbike

Islands In The Stream
You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time
Sunny Sailor Boy

I was especially moved by Lorelei, both tonight and the night before. The tenderness and subtlety of Luka's singing raised goosebumps on my arms. I wish I had asked him if this song is on the new album - it is such a beauty.

Likewise, When Your Love Comes sounds better every time I hear it, if that's possible. Or maybe my love for it just keeps growing. Tonight it was sung with lots of contrast in power and pitch, running the gamut from whisper to full cry. I confess that I wasn’t too keen on the humming accompaniment when he first started that as an experiment during the UK tour last spring, but I am completely won over now! When it works, as tonight it so definitely did, the song somehow conveys both the earthy and the sublime. Outstanding.

Another memorable rendition tonight was Te Adoro, used as bookends for Exploring The Blue: when he picked up Rudy, he started with a few bars of Te Adoro, then went into Exploring The Blue, and then segued smoothly back into Te Adoro to play it in its entirety. And tonight he played it especially well. For a man who 'still has no clue what he's doing', Luka is quite a virtuoso on guitar. At one point towards the end of Te Adoro, I thought fleetingly "now he's just showing off" (!) and just at that moment an odd inward smile appeared on Luka's face and stayed there as he played out the song. Was that a sort of 7-year-old boy "look Ma, no hands" moment? Or was it all in my head? :)

A moment's forgetfulness during Tribe nonetheless showcased Luka's professionalism. If he forgets a word or a line, he seamlessly throws in a kind of Irish scat singing, inventing sounds to replace missing words so quickly and smoothly that, unless you are paying strict attention, you might not even notice he's done it. And it sounds charmingly Irish and makes the rendition unique to the night, converting his memory lapse from mistake to unexpected bonus!

As ever, the audience was willing yet shy about singing along to Islands In The Stream. On about the third or fourth chorus, Luka stopped singing to let us take over and here, as at the Cobh gig, I got caught out. Everyone sang out the first note, then, realising Luka had stopped, nobody sang the second one – except for that not-very-alert American in the front row (blush) who was left "high, wide and lonesome"! Thankfully everyone else recovered quickly! Within a short time we were all at full throttle again.

Peace On Earth – more goosebumps.

We all loved Diamond Mountain, introduced as the "only good song" to come out of a week-long stay in a cottage in Clare in the early 1990s, just after Luka's first visit to Australia. Personally I think this song is one of his all-time best, which makes me wonder if the others he came up with that week were really all that bad...

Since this was the last night of the tour, I tried to savour every song and how he played and sang them tonight, but still found myself a bit sad and nostalgic when it was over. As was the case during the UK tour, it was very easy to make friends with others who love Luka's work, most of whom have seen him perform many times and hope to again soon. Tonight I met some Americans who were having dinner in Doolins Cafe three years ago when quite to their surprise a Dutch television crew locked the doors and turned on the cameras...! They bought the DVD set tonight.

So, another wonderful concert, more great memories. And a fitting end to Luka's little tour round Ireland. So nice of him to invite us to join him on his summer holidays! :)

(Originally published 2008 at

Luka Bloom @ Tom Malone's Pub, Miltown Malbay - 30 July 2008

Tom Malone's Pub - Market House Theatre, Miltown Malbay
Wednesday, 30 July 2008

What a night! The most unusual gig I've ever been to, of any kind of music by any artist. Why? How often does a "paying gig" feel as pure and simple as a night with your mates, all packed into someone's living room (or, in this case, sauna) having a great party?! But if strangers are simply friends you haven't met yet, then that's exactly what Wednesday night in Malone's was: a night with 100 friends, brought together by a love for the songs, singing together, laughing together, drinking together and, yes, sweating together! It takes a very special artist to make (or let) that kind of evening happen -- and that artist is Luka Bloom.

The venue was, how shall I put it... chairs for 60 people but about 100 tickets sold. 'Small' doesn't quite convey how truly close together we were... or how in-Luka's-face we were... or he in ours! 'Intimate' implies quietness... we were anything but that! 'Friendly' better pulls the concepts of 'small' and 'intimate' together but sounds far too tame... The bottom line? The room was a mosh pit. Without the dancing.

I was in the front row, centre, my feet ON the stage. If I straightened a leg, my foot was on the base of the mic stand. When Luka stepped to his left to listen to the audience, the guitar swung round at face level. Meself and the guy to my right kept ducking.

The toilets were behind the stage. To get to them, you had to cross the stage. In front of Luka. Some did it while he was singing. He didn't bat an eyelid. If someone approached just as he was ready to start the next song, he'd step back, wave them through, THEN start. He dubbed the stage 'Grand Central Station'.

And of course we had all the usual banter, but this night it wasn't Luka doing all the talking. Good-natured heckling flew to and from both sides of that small stage. Our chief spokeswoman was Angela from Belfast, up front and two chairs to my left. When Luka gave his usual intro to Lorelei "...lots of songs have been written about that rock -- this one's the best of them", she retorted "We'll be the judge of that!" It was exquisitely sung -- a stand out that night -- and at the end she said "Okay, Luka, yours is the best" and he saluted her. Fair play.

Likewise his intro to Miracle Cure: "Forgiveness can be the hardest thing... especially when you know you're right!" We hooted with laughter but he insisted "It's true! You know it's true!"

And Luka's astonishment to find, when recounting the first time he sang Eastbound Train, that we had a couple amongst us who were there, yes, in Heiligenhaus that night, part of that now legendary audience who sang along the first time they heard it.

It was just so bloody HOT... About half way through, Luka said he was reminded of a gig he did in New Orleans, opening for The Pogues in about 1988. The night was heavy with heat and humidity. He sat resting, sweating, after his own set, when, just as The Pogues took the stage, the storm broke, with the first crash of thunder chiming with the first clash of guitar. Said he hadn't thought of that night for 20 years. Until tonight.

He does like it hot though and no doubt would have happily played straight through the set without a break, but he could see we were suffering so at the point when he changed guitars, he suggested a short time-out and just sat down on stage while people headed for the bar. But once he'd stopped moving, he must have felt chilled in his soaked-through shirt, because he then decided a proper 10-minute interval was a great idea -- and went off to put a dry shirt on.
Luka Bloom
Thank You For Bringing Me Here
There Is A Time
Eastbound Train
Miracle Cure
Blackwater Side
Make You Feel My Love
City Of Chicago
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
Peace On Earth
Water Ballerina
- interval -
Exploring The Blue / Te Adoro
Every Man
When Your Love Comes
I'm On Your Side
Sunny Sailor Boy
Fertile Rock
Acoustic Motorbike

Islands In The Stream
You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time

As it was, he came on stage at 9:15, played til 11:45. Whew!
I said to him afterwards 'I don't know how you do this'.
He said 'Neither do I!'

The next day he was heard to describe the night as hilarious -- and he wasn't being sarcastic. Many singers would have felt distracted, annoyed and/or insulted -- by the heat, the closeness, the heckling, the to-and-froing across the stage, the complete anarchy. But I think Luka was laughing inside, all night! Because the whole scene was absolutely mad -- a truly unforgettable, special, once in a lifetime kind of night.

Luka Bloom
(Originally published 2008 at

Luka Bloom @ Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast - 4 May 2008

Black Box, Belfast
Sunday, 4 May 2008

Bit of a mad thing to do, to fly from London to Belfast just for the afternoon... just for a gig... but when it's a Luka gig? Well... and, as it happens, quite right too!

This gig was part of the 2008 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, but when I arrived at 1pm, there wasn't much outward sign of a festival going on. It was raining and most of the events seemed to be taking place indoors, so perhaps the deserted streets should not have surprised me. The Cathedral Quarter is the oldest part of the city, near the docks, with narrow little cobblestone streets -- once the warehouse district, now home to a lot of artistic enterprises. Black Box is a fairly recent venture, housed in a converted warehouse. Outside, it is painted pristine white - though the ironwork e.g. gates are black -- but inside, it is indeed a "Black Box". The performing space is square, with entry coming in from the side, level with the stage. The lights were kept dim and the overriding impression is definitely one of Blackness. Seating for the audience was arranged around small tables but cosmetic decorations were absent: no candles, no flowers, the chairs being made of nasty perhaps-once-white resin ('garden furniture'), and the stage was likewise: just sound equipment, nothing extra. But it's the sound that's created in that space that's important, and wow, what a sound we got -- and made!!!

I met a few people outside before they started letting us in: Matt & Steph from Glasgow and Fiona from Tasmania now living in Dublin. Matt & Steph were the first to arrive at the venue and were waiting by the gate when I arrived. I'd never met them before but Steph greeted me by name -- shock!! Apparently the Forum and Facebook have made me famous! Once in the door in the 'holding area', we got to chatting with Fiona, another Internet booker without a bona fide ticket, like me. So the four of us sat together inside, right at the front in the centre. Perfect!!

Ruby Colley Support for Luka was Ruby Colley, originally from Essex (I believe she said) but now living in Belfast. She's been playing violin since age 3, was classically trained, has a degree in Composition, now an experimental composer & performer & artist-in-residence for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2008, opening for many of the headline acts throughout the Festival. More info including downloads at She (and Luka too, later) were frequently stooping down to adjust the sound mix. [Luka didn't have Paul Scully, his usual sound man on the UK tour, with him and called out several times to the Black Box sound man at the controls, but didn't seem to get much real assistance. He made jokes about it -- as he did what he could with the controls on the stage -- but I don't think it was really all that funny for him...] Ruby seemed totally accustomed to doing it all herself. A very self-possessed young lady with an unusual sound. Not to everyone's taste but I was filled with admiration for her. She's creative, innovative and very brave to do what she does. And thankfully enough people seem to 'get it' that she is getting some recognition and support from both the public and other artists. Fair play t' her!

So, the Main Man.

Okay, this may be a girly thing to notice, but my first impression was that the ubiquitous black shirt from the UK tour is no longer quite so black and should now, in my opinion, be honourably but permanently retired! Though honestly, once he starts making music, who cares about the shirt!!

Luka Bloom Set List
(Martin classical guitar)
1  Here And Now
2  As I Waved Goodbye
3  Tribe
4  Primavera
5  Make You Feel My Love
6  City of Chicago
7  No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
8  Sunday
9  Eastbound Train

(switch to Rudy)
10  Exploring The Blue
11  Gone To Pablo
12  Fire
13  I'm On Your Side
14  Every Man
15  Sunny Sailor Boy
16  The Fertile Rock


17  You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time
(back to Martin guitar)
18  Diamond Mountain
19  Don't Be Afraid Of The Light That Shines Within You
(accompanied by Ruby Colley on violin)

A few songs into the set, Luka asked for either the air conditioning to be turned off or the stage lights to be turned up, because "okay, I'm sweatin' up here, as I'm sure you can see, but I'm feckin' freezin'!" He then looked to the audience for backup -- unfortunately, most people seemed to want the air con to stay on! The stage lights never did get turned up any brighter for him. :(

The songs that really stood out for me, both at the time and looking back now, were:

WOW! What a performance from the audience!! Dare I say, better than the audience in the Carre on the live Amsterdam album!! I had shivers!! And NOT from the air con!! I wish I could have got a picture of Luka grinning with pleasure & astonishment!! :)

I think it's been a while since this song featured live... Luka said he was heckled for it last Friday night in Belgium by a BIG man at the front "who had all the hippie gear on, but 'PSYCHO' in his eyes....better safe than sorry!" Well, I say 'thank you' to Psycho Man in Belgium ;)

Please please please let this be on the new album. Third time I've heard it this year and each time I find something new in it to love. This time, 'a butterfly leaves the room', leaving behind it, grace.

Perennial sing-along favourite, enthusiastically sung by everyone!

Again, how the audience sang along -- every word!

Another fabulous old favourite, and an especially tender performance of it.

And lastly, the highlight (for me) of the entire day:
This is one of my all-time favourite songs by ANY artist. Luka described how he had been trying to write a song for St Brigid's Day and took inspiration from a line used by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural presidential speech: "it's not the darkness people are afraid of, but the light within".
Ruby's violin was an inspired accompaniment.


More shivers! :)

A few fragment memories of Luka's introductions and chat:

He explained how he wrote the song about the day the Dalai Lama left his home in Tibet on 17 March 1959 (to which he has not, to this day, been free to return) and how honoured he felt to be asked to play it for the Dalai Lama himself in Derry last year at the 10th anniversary of Children in Crossfire. Then Luka said that the Chinese government recently stated again that the Dalai Lama is a criminal - "Well, I have met him. He is NOT a criminal."

There were the usual lines Luka uses to make the transition from CITY OF CHICAGO (written 24 years ago about emigration) to this song about immigration - "Now Ireland is a destination for immigrants. This is a Good Thing! Because there are some places in Ireland, ladies and gentlemen, where the gene pool is a little too small."
And then he added: "Darlin', I'm so sad we're gettin' a divorce, but can we still be cousins?" (!!)

His intro was about Australia (Fiona could not suppress a cheer!) -- and he was going on at some length about something, until suddenly he said "See, I should shut up and just sing!" Steff & I exchanged glances -- I am sure we were both remembering when the DVD came out in February (the documentary having, in Luka's opinion, "way too much of me talking shite.... maybe it is best to sing the song, and then shut up") -- which resulted in a post on his website entitled "The Man Is Waffling"!

Altogether a very memorable afternoon and one of the best -- if not THE best -- gig ever!!

And when we came out of the Black Box at 5.45, we found the rain had cleared -- the sunshine was absolutely dazzling off all the wet shiny cobblestones! On the bus ride back to Belfast International to catch my flight back to London, I got to see all the scenery that had been hidden by gloom and rain that morning, which was a glorious ending to a fantastic day.

Luka Bloom
Luka Bloom

And a little video treat - Luka playing Gone to Pablo + Te Adoro:

(Orignially published 2008 at

Luka Bloom @ Union Chapel, Islington - 21 April 2008

Union Chapel, London
Monday, 21 April 2008

Wow!!! What a venue!!! Visually it is quite spectacular, all proper wooden craftsmanship, with intricately detailed stained glass windows, and the acoustics were amazing. Luka's voice and guitar filled all the spaces beautifully. Our voices didn't seem to quite do that when we sang with him, but Luka said afterward that he could hear us all very well, so he must have been getting the best of us just as we were getting the best of him!

But I get ahead of myself.... a special feature of this gig was the fact he had an opening support act, and he could not have had a better one in Claire Tchaikowski. They have known each other for a long time (he told the story of how they met in Lausanne, her home town, in the early 1990s) but had never shared a stage before, so it was a special gig for them both for that reason.

Claire sang for about 30 minutes, accompanied by two very talented chaps - Hugh Wilkinson on percussion and Tom Howe on guitar. Her songs are in a contemporary singer/songwriter style, not really what I'd call 'folk'. They are quite original with strongly emotive lyrics -- but it is her singing that sets them apart! Her voice reminded me at times of Sarah McLachlan... at other times of Enya (who she cites as an influence for her) -- a pure lilting soprano that soared over us like a dove. Her final song was Ride On, sung a capella. I'd never heard anyone but Christy sing this but she made it all her own. Just gorgeous. (Go check her out on MySpace and listen to her downloads!!)

And now on to Luka!

Here is the set list, starting on the Spanish guitar:

Luka Bloom 1  As I Waved Goodbye
2  Here And Now
3  Tribe
4  Miracle Cure
5  I Love The World I'm In
6  Make You Feel My Love
7  Primavera
8  Sunday
9  Eastbound Train
10  City Of Chicago
11  No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
12  Peace On Earth
13  I'm A Bogman

(change of guitars to Rudy)
14  Exploring The Blue
15  Gone To Pablo
16  Fire
17  I'm On Your Side
18  Sunny Sailor Boy
19  You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time

20  When Your Love Comes
21  Ciara
22  I'll Walk Beside You
(a cappella)

Every gig is different of course, not just for the venue but for the people and the vibe and how Luka is feeling and playing on the night. The Union Chapel had, I felt, a restful, soothing effect. We know how Luka puts so much energy into his live performances and makes each one feel fresh and new but I thought this evening had a slightly different pace to it than his other gigs I've been to recently. The entire evening felt more contemplative. Perhaps our surroundings lent a little reverence to the occasion...? The tempo of the songs was a little slower and his voice savoured each word, giving each note its full value -- beautiful! Of course the cheeky jokes were all still there, with, for example, natives of Roscommon bearing the brunt of his introduction to No Matter Where You Go, There You Are: "there are places in Ireland where the gene pool is too small..." But things cannot quite be 'business as usual' when you're playing "Irish folk/punk/rap" music in a church -- a hasty "sorry!" was inserted immediately after "everybody's gone online, where nothing is real - big f*cking deal" in Fire, as if he suddenly remembered where he was!! ;)

Some songs that particularly stood out for me were:

Primavera - slowed down almost to the pace of the studio recording. Luka sang the first verse particularly softly, tenderly, then built up power and volume with each verse that followed. The result was spine-tingling!!

Sunday - the irony of the sentiments were especially poignant in this setting! And I get a kick out of the way Luka introduces this song with "I've just thought of a little song I'd like to play tonight" as if it's not on his set list and it has only just popped into his head to play it... does he say this at every gig? :)

City of Chicago - there has always been a hint of melancholy and yearning in this song but this performance went further, with what I thought was a sense of mourning, hinting at proper old-fashioned Irish keening -- a beautifully controlled yet incredibly emotional performance.

Peace On Earth was exquisitely played -- he could have gone on for another 20 minutes and I wouldn't have noticed the passing of time, much less minded!

Then he went straight to I'm A Bogman, apologising to us for the abrupt change of mood!!

When Your Love Comes -- his tribute to his friend John O'Donohue who died unexpectedly in January -- what an intense song! Luka may say he's no good at writing "sexy songs" but I beg to differ!!

For the final song of his encore, Luka placed Rudy on his rest, stepped in front of the microphone, out of the lights, stood on the very front edge of the stage and sang I'll Walk Beside You a capella. Every note hung in the air as bright as any pane in the glorious stained glass windows and we hung there with them, hushed and prayerful. When the last note finally faded away, I am sure I am not the only one who wanted to say 'Amen'.

Afterwards, Luka and his new UK manager Jane Skinner manned a little stand at the back, where Luka signed CDs, DVDs and no doubt whatever else anybody wanted signed! And he was free with the chat and banter, very relaxed. Of course we are dying to know about the next album! He said he has finished recording it and is very pleased with it, but says it is not like anything he's ever done before -- which is a rather intriguing thing for him to say, after Tribe!! :) The mixing of the new album is about to start, and he hopes it will be released in the autumn. I asked him about Don't Be Afraid Of The Light That Shines Within You, since he mentioned it in a recent radio interview -- he said it is "the big song" on the album! Also on the album is When Your Love Comes. The recent gigs have certainly whet our appetite for that one.

Rena asked him about his touring schedule through the rest of the year -- LOTS of dates still to be confirmed. I didn't catch all of them and have a memory like a sieve anyway, so all I can say on that score is 'watch the website!!'

At 11pm the church had to close up so we went up into the bar, where we were very pleased to have a chance to speak to Claire for a few minutes.

The evening ended all too soon for me, though in fact I very nearly missed the last train home!! A fantastic evening - looking forward to the next time!

Luka Bloom @ Komedia, Brighton - 13 April 2008

Komedia, Brighton
Sunday, 13 April 2008

After several weeks of arguing with myself over the 'necessity' of going to Luka's Brighton gig, when, after all, I will see him at the Union Chapel in only a week's time, I gave into weakness on Thursday and rang up the Komedia and bought a ticket. So, after my usual Sunday afternoon singing lesson in central London, I drove down to Brighton enjoying a lovely, long-overdue spring day, marked by intermittent showers and dazzling sunshine.

The Komedia is a funky kind of place: the walls are dark red and the place feels a bit cave-like. Access to the two event venues in the building is through a cafe at street level. Luka's gig was upstairs; on the ground floor, a stand-up comedy event was happening but through the entire evening we never heard anything of them... I wonder if they could hear anything from us...? The doors opened at 7.30 pm by which time a little crowd of people had collected in the cafe. A nice buzz of anticipation was running through everyone, and then we were up the stairs and into a room set with little round tables, each with a lit candle and 3 or 4 chairs. The stage was quite high (Luka's feet would be at eye level). A table was set with water for Luka and a vase of yellow roses. The backdrop was midnight blue with little starlike pinpricks -- it reminded me of the Helix gig on the DVD.

The tickets were sold stating "event starts at 8 pm" but when we came in we were told that had been moved back to 8.30 pm. There were a few half-hearted mumbles about that and I must say I was surprised, as I have never heard of Luka keeping his audiences waiting. Sure enough, he came on at 8.10, so maybe the Komedia staff were just playing it safe.

Luka came on stage to warm applause. The room was lit with spotlights throughout and he said how great it was to be able to see everybody! He got a bit of a surprise though. He sang much of his first song with his eyes closed. When he finished the song and opened his eyes, he found that all the lights (except the ones shining down on him) had been turned off -- we had all disappeared! This was a shame, as the darkness deprived us and Luka of the direct eye contact that he likes to have with his audiences.

On to the music...I took proper notes this time and can give you the full set list as follows:

Luka Bloom [with the Spanish guitar]
1  I Am Not At War
2  Here And Now
3  As I Waved Goodbye
4  Tribe
5  I Love The World I'm In
6  Miracle Cure
7  Blackwater Side
8  Make You Feel My Love
9  Eastbound Train
10  Sunday
11  Peace On Earth
12  Primavera
13  City of Chicago
14  No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
15  I'm A Bogman

[then Rudy's turn]
16  Exploring The Blue
17  I'm On Your Side
18  Every Man
19  You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time

Encore [with Rudy]
20  When Your Love Comes
21  Fire
22  Sunny Sailor Boy

Highlights for me were the particularly exquisite guitar bridge in Miracle Cure and hearing the story behind When Your Love Comes. When introducing Every Man at a recent gig, Luka said that he had been to too many funerals lately. I felt sad to hear that, but -- looking for the silver lining to this cloud -- it appears that, in his personal way of dealing with these losses, Luka has tapped into a rich song-writing vein. Every Man is a real gem, both simple and profound, and When Your Love Comes is an outstanding tribute celebrating a friend's life and passion, rather than wallowing in grief.

Sunny Sailor Boy was a fabulous way to end the gig, with everybody singing. Just before we came to the finish, Luka interjected "I forgot to tell you, I'll be hearing confessions and signing CDs..." which resulted in the song ending in laughter as well as applause and whistles.

I don't know about any confessions, but there was a lot of interest in the DVD set and everything purchased on the night got signed. I was trying to think of a legitimate reason to buy another CD or something, just for an excuse to get it signed... but then had the bright idea of getting my set list signed!! That capped off a perfect evening.

(Originally published 2008 at

Luka Bloom @ St Patrick's Festival - 16 March 2008

St Patrick's Day Festival @ Trafalgar Square, London
Sunday, 16 March 2008

St Patricks Day in Trafalgar Square was GREAT -- as Luka said 'a soft Irish day', so not bad at all!!

Luka Bloom Quite a festival atmosphere! Lots of tricolours, football shirts, shamrocks (including temporary face tattoos being handed out at the gate), leprechaun outfits... And people of all races, ages, etc... In fact, when Luka spoke to the crowd in Gaelic, nobody paid him any mind, so I think the 'genuine' IRISH were in the extreme minority!!!! Three huge nets of balloons (green, white orange, of course) were released to great applause and cheers. Then one of the nets got caught on the stage lights over the stage, requiring 3 men & one enormous ladder to get it disentangled -- again to loud cheers & not a little joshing!! Not everyone was paying strict attention to what was happening on stage, but that's okay, everybody seemed to be having a great time -- lots of people up on other people's shoulders (children on daddies', teenage girls on teenage boys'... ) and flag waving (including makeshift flags from umbrellas) and groups doing their own sing-a-longs. Don't remember if it was Luka, or Joe Brown who was on before him, that said "looks like you guys have a little gig of your own going on right there..."

Anyway, Luka sang 8 songs (not 100% sure of the order but I don't think I missed any!), as follows:

* FIRE -- I heard this for the first time in De Barras the other night -- fantastic song,
I hope he records it -- lots of energy & 'angst', harks back to Riverside days, in my opinion!
* CITY OF CHICAGO -- the only song the audience appeared to know well enough to really
sing along to -- he gave his "the song my brother made famous" introduction...
mention of Christy got a big cheer
* NATURAL MYSTIC -- audience LOVED this!! everybody was dancing
seemed largely to ignore, which is such a shame
* YOU COULDN'T HAVE COME AT A BETTER TIME -- introduced with the words
'as the actress said to the bishop...'

I arrived too late to catch Ann Scott -- and by the time Luka finished, my face felt frozen and I needed the toilet.... and then I thought it might be a good idea to start making my way home before all the drunken hordes later on... So while I caught Joe Brown (who reminded me rather oddly of Rod Stewart), I missed out on Roisin Murphy and Aslan, which I had been hoping to see. Ah well, another time.

(Originally published 2008 at

Luka Bloom @ De Barra's - 13 March 2008

De Barra's, Clonakilty
Thursday, 13 March 2008

Here is a belated review of a lovely, intimate gig Luka played in De Barras in mid-March. I am relying on scribbles as I write this two months later; I had hoped that, by now, the kaleidoscope of impressions, memories and emotions from my very first visit to Ireland would have settled into some kind of coherent pattern but it has not! Yet hopefully I can give you a glimpse at this gig.

Clonakilty is a friendly welcoming town and De Barras is a fantastic venue – not least because of its established reputation as a premier venue for live Irish music in an intimate setting, especially for contemporary artists. De Barras is spoilt for choice as to what artists they can get, so we punters are always the winners, guaranteed first rate music, no matter when we go or who is playing. The fact that John Spillane has a residency there on the first Thursday of every month says it all, really!

I met up before the gig with Rich who lives nearby and we got seats in the front row. The room filled slowly, reaching perhaps 100 in total, though a few seats remained empty all evening. The stage was clear of everything except sound equipment and two guitars (Rudy and, yes, Judy!) and a third (empty) guitar stand. Rich idly remarked that the guitars looked like they'd "been through the wars", then he suddenly said: "Where’re the flowers?" "Never mind the flowers," said I, "where’s the chair?!"

Because, YES, after nearly 4 years, The Man Is Standing!! :-)

What a great gig! Luka came on stage from a staircase off to the right, carrying the Martin classical guitar he has been playing the past six months, and was welcomed with huge cheers and applause. He was very happy to be playing here among his own people, as of course the audience was full of Moores and various other relations and friends. He was grinning and bouncing with energy the entire evening, really psyched up – said he’d had a bit of a rest since Celtic Connections but needed something like this gig to get back in the swing of things before performing the next Sunday at the St Patricks Festival in London, as he didn't want to "go straight from the bunker to 40,000 'nutcases' in Trafalgar Square". [I teased him afterwards for insulting Londoners... he denied he said it!! ;)]

Here are the songs Luka played, not in the correct order as I wasn’t taking proper notes and have only pieced together the first half dozen for certain:

Set list
(on the Martin guitar)
There Is A Time
I Love The World I’m In
I Am Not At War
Eastbound Train
I'm A Bogman
Peace On Earth
Look Over The Hill And Far Away
[a Gerry Rafferty song with harmonica]
City Of Chicago

(on to Rudy/Judy – I didn’t note which songs were played on which guitar)
I'm On Your Side
Sunny Sailor Boy
See You Soon
Candle In The Window
Natural Mystic
When Your Love Comes
Every Man
You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time
[last song of main set]

(two of the Rudy/Judy songs above, don’t remember which ones)
then back to the classical guitar for the closing song of the night:

So many new songs for me. Quite a few have featured in his live sets before but have never been recorded. My one and only previous Luka gig was seven years ago and so I hadn't heard Candle In The Window, See You Soon or Fire (which I loved). A few songs were written just in the past few months and are still being "tried out on the humanoids" - Sunday was lovely but Every Man raised goosebumps on my arms. Luka did not introduce When Your Love Comes at all so I didn’t find out until a gig later this spring that it was written in January for John O’Donohue – it simply registered in my memory as very intense and very gorgeous.

The Gerry Rafferty song also caught my attention: I grew up in the USA with Gerry Rafferty songs and must admit I hadn't heard this one before! Luka had a bit of fun getting the headgear set up to hold the harmonica to his mouth so he could blow into it and still have both hands free to play guitar – he obviously had not perfected the technique and his clumsiness was fodder for a few jokes.

I have a scribble in my notebook that Luka also played an instrumental that I’d never heard before (in addition to Peace On Earth), and I haven’t heard it since either, so don’t know what it was and haven’t included it in the set list.

(Originally published 2008 at

The Man Is Standing
(after 4 years doing all his gigs on a stool - he said in an interview this week
"I'm ready to stand up and make some noise again").

They say 'never meet your heroes'... but he was really nice!
(well, after making me promise never to share any of the recordings I made that night!)