Sunday Magazine - 17 March 2002
Luka the Irish
Australia's adopted troubadour
He might be able to reduce grown men to tears, but Luka Bloom will always be in the
shadow of his older brother in Ireland. Lucky for him, then, that Australians appreciate
his "stadium folk for the bedroom". Jane Cornwell reports.
Luka Bloom concerts do
strange things to people. The warm, intimate singing style and open-hearted material
of this handsome Irish troubadour has, in the course of a performance, prompted
outbreaks of hugging among strangers, reduced hard men to tears and had women
wondering (loudly) if he'd father their children.
At his last appearance at Sydney's State Theatre, a couple got engaged during the
encore. "Some guy from the balcony shouted down, 'Hey Luka! Can you play
I Need Love?' I want to propose to my girlfriend," Bloom recalls with a grin.
"When I finished the song I looked up into the darkness and said, 'Okay?'
All I could see was this upturned thumb."
Australia was one of the first countries to fully appreciate what the 46-year-old
playfully calls his "stadium folk for the bedroom". Bloom's reworking of
rapper LL Cool J's 'I Need Love' - in which a Lothario acknowledges that his
promiscuous lifestyle isn't bringing him fulfilment - was already a hit when he
arrived in 1992; his debut gig at Enmore Theatre in Sydney was packed as result.
"That was quite a shock", he says in his mellifluous Celtic lilt. "I
was used to doing hundreds of gigs in poxy clubs before anybody knew I existed.
It felt very strange to fly 1200 miles and feel completely at home, but that's what
happened the first time I visited Sydney."
Bloom has been a regular visitor here ever since and is more likely to be recognised walking
down a Melbourne street than he is in his hometown of Dublin. Bloom derives 95 per cent
of his income from abroad. For the past decade or so he has toured almost constantly on
the back of a series of albums rooted unashamedly in the Irish folk tradition - of which his
latest "Between the Mountain and the Moon", is arguably his best yet.
An intense, self-contained and occasionally hilarious man, he has said that it suits him to
be relatively anonymous in Ireland. A long time ago he resigned himself to the fact that
he will always be better known there as the younger brother of the legendary Christy
Moore. "If I had 10 No.1 albums in Germany, America and Australia, I'd still be
Christy's wee brother in Ireland," he says, shrugging. "That's okay, we are
very close and I love him. These days I basically think I'm a lucky bastard who has
got away with murder since he was 16. I make my living from writing and singing - so
all this other stuff isn't important."
It wasn't as if he didn't try to make it at home. During the '70s and early '80s he slogged
away in Dublin bars and cafes and recorded three albums under his real name, Barry Moore.
Accompanied by his acoustic guitar, his self-penned songs told stories of love, survival
and real people battling the odds. Unfortunately, no one wanted to hear them.
In 1987 he got on a plane for Washington DC. When it touched down five hours later,
he had become Luka Bloom. Unlike their Dublin counterparts, American audiences adored
him so he based himself Stateside for a while, then spread his net to Europe and Australia.
He released three critically acclaimed albums on Warner's Reprise label (most notably,
1992's "The Acoustic Motorbike", which dropped him when the last,
1994's "Turf", failed to have the desired commercial impact. On returning
to Ireland he was picked up by Sony and spent a year writing songs in an isolated
cottage for 1998's "Salty Heaven". But that, too, had insufficient sales
and Bloom was dropped again.
He cheered himself up by recording "Keeper of the Flame", his lauded album
of cover versions - ABBA, Radiohead and Hunters and Collectors among them - and
releasing it on an independent label. It sold by the bucket load. "The way I look
at it", he muses, "is that the music industry is having its ultimate wet dream.
The charts are full of young boy and girl bands who are entirely malleable, do what
they're told and don't have awkward artistic temperaments. But there's another way
to make music, whether through the internet or through cottage industries where
people like me function in this crazy way. That suits me fine."
For the first time in his career, the rights to his current album are entirely his.
"It's all mine," he chuckles in the knowledge that "Between
the Mountain and the Moon" sounds all the better for it. Critics have
praised its mellow musicianship and Bloom's storytelling aesthetic. During the
two years it took to record, Bloom would cycle from the Dublin home he shares
with his long-time girlfriend ("She's a wonderful human being who has a
terrible taste in men") to Windmill Lane Studios, a recording facility that
has played host to everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Chieftains.
Since then he has built up his website,
www.lukabloom.com for his
international fan base, and been on tour, which brings him back to Australia.
"I can't wait to get back there," he gushes. "I call Australians
Paddies with suntans, cause I feel the Irish influence there runs very deep.
I love the place."
Luka Bloom plays at the Melbourne Concert Hall on March 22.
© Sunday Magazine - Sunday Herald Sun
Article from Alinta Davidson
The Advertiser - 18 March 2002
Music: Norwood Concert Hall
The Irishman and his resounding guitar, which are known to a devoted few and
deserves greater recognition, treated Norwood Concert Hall to an
invigorating two hours of natural charm and elevating performance.
Bloom puts not a strum wrong. His brogue soars through every facet of love,
while his guitar sings a chiming, heavenly accompaniment. Jumping from
inspired covers to toe-tappers and whimsical ballads, Bloom can even make
lesser works live. Banter with the audience and sly commentary complete this
consummate showman whose rich vocals will ring out for days to come.
Live Review by Ben McEachen
Time Off - Music Site - 19 March 2002
Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom is one of music's most-amiable chaps and has plenty to say
during an interview for his forthcoming Australian tour. Just don't mention the weather
"Don't be annoying me! What is it, 30º down in Brisbane?", a chilly Luka Bloom
asks from his Dublin home, albeit in the midst of a 35º-plus Queensland heatwave.
"Oh, that's a bit too much", he remarks, "but I'm really looking forward to [the tour].
I'm delighted I'm going back to the Tivoli and I'm delighted I'm also going to the Byron Bay Festival.
This is my first ever Australian festival and I don't know how that's happened but I'm quite happy this
is my first one - I believe it's a great festival." ....... "By the time Salty Heaven was done,
I had no choice. I'm really glad it happened because I'm really enjoying this way of working. You'll
never see me on Top Of The Pops but I have a healthy working life and I also have a life outside
music. I like it."
The Age - 22 March 2002
Luka Bloom: "I set out to challenge myself to learn songs by artists I'd
never even listened to before..."
What happens when the tumult and the shouting dies down? What happens when,
after nearly a decade of accolades and deeply appreciative audiences, you
suddenly find you no longer have a contract with a multinational record
company and your audiences are starting to thin out?
In the case of Luka Bloom, aka Barry Moore (younger brother of Irish folk
singer Christy Moore), whose three albums for Reprise Records - Riverside
(1990), The Acoustic Motorbike (1992) and Turf (1994) - were critically
acclaimed around the world, you take stock, set up your own record label and
quietly go back to doing what you always did. You see, "the Luka Bloom
years" were one of those freaky things that sometimes happen in the record
Luka Bloom plays at the Concert Hall tonight and the East Coast Blues and
Roots Festival at Byron Bay over Easter.
Revolver - 25 March 2002
A rovin' we will go
Goin' solo with Luka Bloom.
Luka Bloom, 46-year-old younger brother of Irish superstar, Christy Moore, chuckles at the
familiarity with which he is greeted by some interviewers now. "There are about five or
six people in Australia who I have these once-every-18-months chats with. I must get you
guys to send me photographs."
This is actually the third interview in two years so we've got the average down to about
one every eight months. But who's complaining? Not me.
Luka Bloom is as close to an adopted minstrel in the gallery as it gets without actually
forcing him to take out Australian citizenship. His is a story that's always worth telling.
Luka, real name Barry Moore, changed the moniker in 1987 - the Christian name is adapted
from Suzanne Vega's legendary song about child abuse, and the surname is taken from
Leopold Bloom, the character in James Joyce's epic novel, 'Ulysses' - when he flew off
to the US in search of something, probably not exactly fame and fortune because those
twins aren't big in the Bloom way of thinking, rather just telling his folky tales to a larger
audience. The Americans lapped it up and when he spread his strum to Europe and
Australia, well, they both fell for him too.
So much so, his reworking of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" bounded up the
charts in '92 and catalysed a tour of sold-out theatres around the country. Ever since,
he's been welcomed back with open arms. Of course, not everything has gone exactly
to plan. Despite three critically-acclaimed albums on Warners - the legendary "The
Acoustic Motorbike", "Riverside" and "Turf" - Warners
dropped him in 1994, then fellow major Sony followed suit after 1998's "Salty
Heaven" failed to sell enough to impress the notoriously chart-conscious company.
More fool them. Luka decided enough was enough, hopped on the Web, started up
his own site and label [www.lukabloom.com],
and popped out a lovely album of covers, "Keeper Of The Flame".
Praised? Of course. Better still is his first solo album for himself, "Between the
Mountain and the Moon", by far his best, a beautiful, modern, special updating
of the folk and story-telling tradition that loses none of his trademark emotion and
lyricism. "I'm thrilled with it," he says. "Australia was the first
country it was released in, and I'm so glad it was because the feedback has just
been so positive. In fact, we've just released it in Ireland (remarkably, his home
market is his most difficult market), and I feel very encouraged. Last year was
quite remarkable for me because I set up the website, completed the record that
I actually own and put in place a new structure for my working life. This year is
the year I go on the road and see what happens. Everything is in place so I've
just got to get out there now, do the shows, reacquaint myself with old friends
and hopefully make a couple of new ones."
He's also ventured into the past in search of himself as Barry Moore.
Luka fanatics have long bemoaned the fact that the three albums he recorded
under his own name have been impossible to get hold off. "In the case of
two of the albums, the record companies had gone bust and in the third case,
the record company were just complete assholes and wouldn't let me near the
master tapes, so what I did was got my sound engineer to master a CD from really
good quality, reasonably clean, straight vinyl, just to make those songs available."
"The Barry Moore Years" is available from his website and at his shows.
"It's another area of creativity that has been opened up to me by not having
to justify my existence to a record company." In fact, the sequence of records
has all been a blooming masterplan. Luka laughs, "I have to admit now that I
used "Keeper Of The Flame" as a test case to see how this new independent
world worked for me. I wanted to make a record that gave me a creative kick in the
arse - I needed it - but also was one into which I didn't have a huge emotional input
because I would have been really devastated if I'd done "Between The Mountain
And The Moon" first and it hadn't worked out. As it turned out "Keeper
Of The Flame" got such a positive reaction that it gave me great momentum
to do this second one."
And for once the world swung with Luka. In America a new acoustic consciousness
is beginning to infiltrate an industry that has been dominated by artifice and teen
dreams for too long. "In the '80s and '90s the phenomena of stadium music
was all pervasive," Bloom says. "In the live arena stadium rock had
an impact on the ability of more intimate venues to thrive and survive. I think
that for a lot of people who love going to a live show, the experience of going to
stadiums has proven to be somewhat shallow and unsatisfying. For that reason
alone, people are being increasingly drawn to a more acoustic-oriented music."
"Another interesting development - and I think jazz is partly responsible
for this - is a side effect of the whole hip-hop movement. A lot of hip-hop artists
have collaborated with jazz musicians, so you these people who have worked
with all kinds of house and hip-hop music working with high quality acoustic
musicians who play jazz. In turn, that has opened jazz up to a lot of young
people who previously would never have dreamt of buying a jazz record. These
are some of the things that have drawn people back to acoustic sound."
Perfect for a keeper of the flame and a storyteller whose acoustic motorbike is
all revved up and ready to strum.
Catch the acoustic magic of Luka Bloom on March 23 & 24 at Tilleys and
March 26 at the Enmore.
Article from Michael Power