Review: Luka Bloom at the Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh - Four stars
By Eoin Edwards
“You’re all welcome to the Acoustic Picnic - no umbrellas needed” - and it was Bloom boom, right from get-go, as Luka began what turned out to be a titanic performance, his first in six and a half years at the Cobh venue.
What a venue the Sirius Arts Centre is - steeped in history and character, teaming with atmosphere and what a hard-working national treasure this artist is, equipped as he is with the wit, storytelling, musicianship, singing and songwriting genes this magical country of ours seems to have by the boatload.
A beautiful opening acoustic instrumental ‘Peace on Earth’ may have been disturbed (slightly) by a fog horn from a passing ship, but mid-song he quips “wrong key” to the captain and then while explaining that the tune “grounds me and takes me away from the business and noise outside. Queue foghorn again, to much mirth.
You see that’s the package you get from this pocket rocket and boy was he in spectacular storytelling form. Twenty four songs later you can’t believe the value for money you’ve just got.
As he said: “ Barry’s tea in a mug, a room full of songs, where else would you be”.
An audience from many corners of the world was led on a trip of the imagination to Australia with ‘Diamond Mountain’; a magical bicycle ride to Clare on ‘Blackberry Time’, courtesy of a German ‘vegetarian hamburger’ called Maggie; and on to Jordan for ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, a dig at Trump and Brexit’s immigration stances... ‘How did a homeless child with nothing become a threat to me and you?’
And in the shadow of her life-size statue on the quayside there was the ode to Sonia O’Sullivan, ‘who 20 years ago ran onto the pitch on All-Ireland football final day wearing a Kildare jersey (her mother’s home county). ‘The Race Runs Me’ was inspired by a line from a book in which Sonia talks about the perfect race and the moment she becomes oblivious to the crowd and makes her move ‘deep inside the race, there is no me… the race runs me’.
‘Wave up to the Shore’, written by Luka, aged 16, and recorded at 61; ‘Cello Everest’ an homage to cellist Jacqueline du Pré; the Roy Orbison classic ‘She’s a Mystery Girl’, written by Bono and The Edge; a paired back to beauty ‘The Fields of Athenry’; Leonard Cohen’s ‘In My Secret Life’, which Bloom sang at a month’s mind tribute for Cohen in Patrick Egan’s bar in Liscannor, in the company of 150 others followed. “Patrick is the only man I ever met who was in Woodstock, and he ended up there by accident.”
There were many, many more ‘City of Chicago’, ‘Frúgalisto’ (no manifesto) followed by an encore of ‘Head and Heart’ from the ultimate architect of the broken heart, John Martyn; ‘Fertile Rock’, a campaign song to save Mulloughmore from the hands of developers and in the week that was in it he finished with Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, for the recently departed Aretha Franklin. Wow, wow, wow.
Someone put on the kettle, there are a few more songs in that Nicholas Mosse mug from the man who took his name from Suzanne Vega’s song ‘My Name Is Luka’ and from James Joyce’s Ulysses. No one wants this to end just yet.