Luke Jackson

 Downend Folk Club

Three days until Freedom Day. Venues are opening up. Festivals are happening. Live music is back.

Downend Folk Club are staging socially distanced gigs in the Parish Church. Only 60 of us are allowed in. We are kept two meters apart. There is no bar and very little milling around. The request from the front to keep masks on throughout is honoured in the breach.

Downend Parish Church contains a memorial to local boy W.G. Grace. I will probably work that into my review somewhere.

If you read my blog you already know how much I admire Luke Jackson. The best male voice on the folk scene bar none, and a guitar technique that gets better and better all the time. Truthful, heartfelt lyrics; sometimes taken from his own life, but increasingly also telling tales about slightly odd-ball characters. The gothic folk rock epic Eliza Holt, who killed herself in an insane asylum near where the singer grew up tingles my spine a little more each time I hear it.

It almost feels strange to be watching Luke on a three dimensional stage instead of in his Ikea inspired living room. It must feel a lot stranger to him to be singing to an audience instead of an Iphone. It feels odd to be listening to a gig without a Facebook chat facility. Was this why the audience are slightly more inclined than usual to call out to the singer? Only in a nice way. A folk heckle is inconceivable.

Soon they'll hand me a guitar and they'll strap me to the stage and again they'll let me play he sings in the raucous lock-down inspired opening number. Seeing him back on the stage where he belongs, I was forcibly struck by how much stage craft there is in Luke's live performance. Coming onto the stage unannounced at the beginning of the second set and going straight into the unaccompanied finger clicking Trouble Now. Taking his hand off his guitar to make little gestures -- looking up at the big old sun which keeps on shining in blinding; a little shake of the fist when someone thinks they don't need a helping hand in a Heavy. Nodding his head in time with a stonking cover of Vincent Black Lightening with I swear, I look of guitar-ecstacy on his face as he gets lost in the guitar riff. He's less overtly folkie than he was when I first heard him, but he remains every inch the story teller. He pauses between songs to talk disarmingly about lockdown -- about having written a song about wishing he could spend more time at home, and then finding it forced on him; about needing to look for the positive and seize the moment; about feeling he has watched the whole of Netflix. And about how much he loves being on the road again, despite a seven hour journey and a break down on his way to Bristol.

It's hard to think of a better way to usher in Freedom Day (or even to enjoy a brief respite before the Fourth Lockdown). An engaging, friendly, thoughtful set of songs in a friendly, personable club atmosphere. Downend Folk Club hit it for six. (I warned you.)

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