Mr Jukes and Barney Artist at Scala
For roughly a decade before their 2016 hiatus, Bombay Bicycle Club were one of the country’s most popular indie bands, always staying just the right side of twee while delighting their many fans with a melodic, folk-tinged version of rock, just as the scene that birthed them faded. It’s strange, then, to see that frontman Jack Steadman, aka MrJukes, has taken rather a different turn, teaming up with rapper and fellow Londoner Barney Artist for this year’s jazz-infused album The Locket.
It’s an odd couple, but one that worked on the album – a pleasantly thoughtful effort that was far more interesting than the average indie/rap collaboration. It’s pleasing to say that it’s one that also works on-stage at Scala in London, albeit for very different reasons.
Part standup gig, part community singalong, seeing the pair live is a very different experience to the floaty introspection of the record, as they bounce off each other and a raucous crowd while going through a repertoire that includes the album’s title track, the ruminative Poems, and Deja Vu. Their act is clearly helped by the fact they like each other, and by fans very much enjoying the return of live music – even as it’s threatened by more Covid fears. The duo’s sound on-stage is more urgent and upbeat than in the studio, sounding in some ways like a throwback to a more musical era in hip-hop, when acts like De La Soul and Jurassic 5 ruled the roost, rather than Drake’s autotune. More modern moments in hip-hop history also get a reference, driving fans wild for a version of Kanye West’s Touch the Sky.
It’s the gospel-infused Leaving Us in the Light that provides the emotional highlight of the night, however, dedicated as it is to those who have lost people to the pandemic. Another great moment is provided by Gratitude: another gospel-esque number with echoes of Donovan’s late 60s psychedelic hit Atlantis that once again gets the crowd singing.
Despite the back end of the gig featuring some of the best tracks in their songbook – Vibrate (another throwback joy) and Grant Green – there is a sense that the energy does slightly drop from the first half, perhaps due to the earlier emotional peak and Barney’s convivial wit being difficult to keep up for a full set.
All in all though, at Scala, Mr Jukes and Barney Artist proved that their blend of jazz and hip-hop does translate to the stage – not least due to the charm and love with which it’s delivered.
Photos: Miguel de Melo
For further information and future events visit Mr Jukes and Barney Artist’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Vibrate here: