The 27 Club as a concept is comprised of a much revered collection of musicians who died aged 27. The event is much the same: A four-piece band on bass, guitar, drums and piano emerge. Jack Lukeman himself struts out, toting a cane which he twirls throughout the opener ‘Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)’ by The Doors.
Lukeman is a huge presence on the stage, blessed with a charismatic poise and a stupendously wide range, including an especially powerful tenor. His bandmates are all very capable musicians but their regular exits from the stage when Lukeman took to the fore, as well as their total silence in terms of audience interaction compared with Lukeman’s continual explanation marked him out as the star.
The songs themselves are gorgeous, such as an a capella version of ‘Ol’ Man River’ for Jesse Belvin where Lukeman’s sonorous voice rings out or Robert Johnson’s Crossroad Blues where he strode through the audience dolefully playing the banjo.
There is nothing distasteful in the invocation of these heroes, especially when Lukeman spoke so eloquently about the artists that he clearly had admiration for. Janis Joplin (where Derek Cranin on keys played with a delightful honky-tonk swing) or Jimi Hendrix are highlights and beautifully discussed beforehand. However, given that a giant year counter is projected on stage for the earlier songs, it is somewhat odd that they are not chronologically presented, instead selecting what was clearly intended as a balanced set list but gives the evening a lopsided feeling.
Furthermore, some of the artists seem to have been stuck in rather ham-fistedly; One must wonder what Cobain himself would have made of this almost crooned version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ that rendered the rage of the original rather defunct. Then there’s a rather middle of the road version of ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ (though giving Stuart Nisbet’s understated guitar a chance to come to the fore) just after a lovely soulful intimacy had been created by what came before. The show was brought to the end by a recurrence of the raucous ‘Alabama Song’, the audience leaving wowed more by Lukeman’s voice and presence than by the slightly gratuitous concept to which it was applied.