For diehard fans of Bombay Bicycle Club their frontman, Jack Steadman’s latest venture as Mr Jukes may come as a surprise, swapping guitar ridden, synth induced indie anthems for brass bands, soul and jazz. Though this may polarise those of their fan base who lust for more of the same from a man whose songs coloured much of their youth, Steadman’s new journey is just as enjoyable. Speaking in an interview with Mista Jam on Radio 1 upon the release of his debut album, God First, Steadman remarked that this was “the album I was born to make” and having seen the record played in the flesh I can see why.
Embarking on their first UK tour since the release of God First, the nine-person Mr Jukes Band took to the stage with a rapturous applause from the 950 capacity crowd at Manchester Academy 2. Opening with ‘Somebody New’, the talent on display was clear from the off. The beautiful, soulful harmonies from the three vocalists seamlessly wove in and out of each other, upheld by the rich textures from the accompanying brass band. Having listened to the record a few times since its release, the live context really allowed the band to flourish and show off their musicianship. This was best seen after the band finished playing their second single ‘Tears’ in the middle of the set, spawning seven-minute live jam with each member sharing solos in their cover of ‘Strasbourg St Denis’. This was a real highlight for me as not only did it show them displaying (if not already evident) their musical capability, but also the showmanship, vibrancy and colour needed to prevent musical interludes or improvisations from being introverted or at their worst, egotistical.
Though it may have been a slightly easier crowd, littered with fans from Steadman’s Bombay Bicycle Club days, the audience reaction after they finished playing ‘Ruby’ was one of real warmth and sincerity, leaving the band looking at each other on the stage smiling from ear to ear. This left a real impression on me. It’s so common for artists who have left their more established bands to go pursue solo projects and end up playing their old material as an easy way of getting their audience on side. Though Mr Jukes used no such crutch and with such an adoring fan base as Bombay had, it was really refreshing to see him boldly put faith in his own songs, with much credit to his own artistic integrity. In spite of this, one of the biggest audience reactions came after the Mr Jukes Band put their own jazz-infused spin on Lauryn Hill’s 90s hip-hop classic, ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’.
Despite what was a very positive, uplifting gig, their rendition of ‘Typhoon’ showed a darker side to Mr Jukes’ back catalogue. This brought my favourite use of the brass band in the whole show. With the three members combining to create this thick, almost swampy underbelly. This was complemented by the rich, bassy tone of the baritone sax which oozed throughout the song to ground its darker, religious theme. This added depth in texture felt like a real step up from the record and in keeping with its jazz roots, also left me with great admiration for how no song that was played that evening was identical in arrangement to how it was on the album.
Definitely, keep an eye out for any shows they announce in the future and whatever musical venture Steadman decides to pursue next.
Mr Jukes released his debut album ‘God First’ on July 14th, 2017.