Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! It’s unlikely there will be a parade or green beer in my near future, but I’m pretty certain of a corned beef.
Here’s an obscure number by an Irish singer-songwriter, famous in the Newsome family because it was the first live performance my son ever saw. He was two months old at the time, and Jack Lukeman was the opening act of the Guiness Fleadh at Suffolk Downs in 1999. We’d bought the tickets wll in advance; we were older parents, determined we would incorporate our child into our lifestyle instead of let the kid dictate everything, as we’d seen happen with friends. (There were conversations where these actual words were spoken.) The Guiness Fleadh announced an amazing line-up, Saw Doctors, Luka Bloom, Richard Thompson, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, how could we pass this up? The baby would probably sleep the whole time while we enjoyed the music.
We got there early because we’d heard this Lukeman song on the radio and were intrigued. The crowd was sparse then, we got a great spot. The weather was perfect, sunny, but we made sure the kid was covered. Lukeman came out right on time, but from the first guitar chord we knew we were in trouble. It was so loud! It must have been a combination of no sound check for opening acts and no crowd to absorb the sound. Our son of course started screaming, and we started exchanging worried comments about damaging his ear drums, was that even possible? We covered up his head in blankets to muffle the sound, but that only made him more unhappy, stuck with blankets on his face on this hot day. We ended up carrying him as far from the stage as we could, back even behind the Port-a-Johns. From there Jack’s music was just an echo.
The volume decreased over the course of the day, although we did end up spending most of our time in the covered satellite stages where the music was more acoustic. Moxy Fruvous were good, as was Maura O’Connell. Van Morrison cancelled and Shane MacGowan and the Popes were added, but we didn’t make it to them or Elvis Costello. We did see half of Richard Thompson’s set. I suppose we’d made our point, but I was never as relieved to leave a concert I was enjoying.
And this song? Still pretty great, a dreamy, loping tune, with Jack speaking in a lounge lizard croon (think Jim Morrison) of a real lover, distant, or perfect lover, imagined. He could be missin’ or he could be crushin’, and it all resolves in a not-very-original simile (the lover is like a “summer breeze on a warm July night”) but the performance is so over-the-top and theatrical, like the Phantom of the Opera in a good mood, so who cares? It would sound good in the middle of the night.
I ended up buying the CD at the Fleadh–I hadn’t actually heard any of Jack’s other songs live, it was the best substitute–but nothing else there grabbed me. From what I can gather from a quick Internet search, Lukeman is still around and now performs under the name Jack L., though he seems to have come out and be far more flamboyant than the hyperactive rocker we watched (from a distance) at the Fleadh. Don’t hold me to that, though–best to confirm details with an actual Irishman.
Preparing to write this, I was listening to the CD when my son came in. “This is the first live music you ever went to,” I said to him. “You were just a baby.”
He listened for a few second. “It sucks.”
“Yeah, you weren’t too fond of it back then either.”
As Lukeman says in this song, “It’s the little things that make this life/So beautiful, so glorious, so divine.”