Luka Bloom; June 7, 2009; Shank Hall
At first it looked like it might be a rather sad showing for Luka Bloom who was playing his first show at Shank Hall since the early Nineties. A native of Ireland, Bloom has always enjoyed more success abroad while his brother Christy Moore is a star at home. Even so, he seems to stick to the big cities and Irish festivals when in the US. So I was a little surprised when I learned he would be playing at the relatively small Shank Hall. It was an 8 pm show on a Sunday and when we arrived fifteen minutes before show time only the front handful of tables were occupied. Luckily by the time Bloom took the stage and explained that there was supposed to be an opener but she had cancelled, the room had filled in nicely. He said he wasn’t sure what had happened, and they had considered getting someone else but in the end decided that since it had been awhile since he had played Shank, they might as well make an evening of it.
We couldn’t have been happier, since no opener meant we would get home earlier and get more Luka Bloom. The first half the show was lovely despite the fact that I didn’t know any of the songs, his soothing voice and pretty guitar were enough. In the second half it got even better. Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” was a surprise until I remembered he had done it on his 2000 collection of covers Keeper of the Flame. The Luka Bloom CDs I own are from a small section of time, released between 1990 and 94. Mostly I attribute the impression that I had forgotten about him to out of sight out of mind. I hadn’t seen Bloom in perhaps almost a decade; a show at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music had been the only time outside of a Guinness Fleadh that I had seen him.
Luckily in the second half of his set he dug deeper into his catalog. The first tune I recognized was the gorgeous “Sunny Sailor Boy,” where with very little prompting he convinced the entire audience to sing along on its “ooh waa ooh waa, ooh waa ooh waa my sunny sailor boy.” It doesn’t look like much in print, but trust me, it was lovely. Only a few songs later he pulled out what is perhaps my favorite song. “You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time” from 1990’s Riverside is a heart tugger about the fickleness of fate. I was sure that would be all the songs I knew, but he returned for the encore for with a new shirt on that predicted one more.
Sure enough his white shirt with a black bicycle emblazoned meant he was going to play “Acoustic Motorbike” from the album of the same name. The heart-pumping, furious strumming song was a perfect set closer. He wiped the sweat away, handed the large bouquet of flowers that had adorned the stage to the eight and a half month pregnant woman in the front row (he had teased earlier that he didn’t want to play anything too lively for fear she would go into labor), and left the stage. Leaving me very glad that I had decided to make the trip.