The indefinite hiatus announced by Bombay Bicycle Club in early 2016 was not only a great casualty for many twenty-somethings across the UK, it also marked another leaf falling from the withering tree of ‘noughties’ indie rock. 2017, however, came bearing fresh fruit in the form of Mr Jukes, a new project from former Bombay lead singer Jack Steadman and his debut solo effort, God First, a fantastical adventure in to the world of jazz, funk and soul.
The album is a true highlight of the year, but it is one that may be difficult to recreate live, as Steadman, the undeniably talented architect, often takes a step back, instead utilising many featured vocalists and musicians on the LP. The band he gathers for tonight at a near packed out O2 Shepherd’s Bush, is a nine piece, made up of backing singers, a jazz ensemble, drummer, keyboardist and Steadman himself on bass guitar. The resulting gig is a triumph. Backing vocalist Frida Touray is charged with leading many of the vocals and she is mesmerising, taking control of groovy set opener ‘Somebody New’, midpoint highlight ‘Tears’ and a scintillatingly good cover of Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo-Wop (That Thing)’, showing her ability to rap as well as sing.
Each song is beefed out and bigger than the last, with each musician getting their chance at a solo, which is greeted with delight from the crowd. Still, Steadman’s recognisable wail is present for all to hear on many songs too, and ‘Magic’ showcases his incredible singularity as a vocalist. The gig finishes with the raucous celebration of ‘Grant Green’, a cacophony of soul and jazz, this time with backing vocalist Davide Shorty filling the arena with his powerful soul attitude.
Jack Steadman has created a live experience for sitters and standers alike, a show one can enjoy from up in the gods whilst tapping your toes or down at the front, moving and shaking to the delightful funk beat. It is a real celebration of music, in a night that just oozes joy.
Photo from @mrjukesmusic on Instagram