Every once in a while, I like to go into a show that I’m excited about with some mystery. Mr Jukes on Monday night was one of those shows — and it paid off.
Mr Jukes is the solo project of former Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman. If you’re familiar with their indie rock anthems, you’d be completely surprised by the nature of Mr Jukes’ sound. Steadman explores the sounds of jazz, soul, Motown, and funk extensively on his debut record God First, which features collaborations with the likes of BJ The Chicago Kid, De La Soul, Lianne La Havas, and the late, great Charles Bradley.
Monday night’s show at the Echoplex was one of Steadman’s first ticketed shows in America with the project. I fell in love with the record about a week before he came through LA — all thanks to his publicist dropping me an e-mail that day. I didn’t watch ANY live videos because I was curious how he was going to recreate the record. It turns out he’s got more-or-less a Chic setup, though Steadman is on bass whereas Chic bandleader Nile Rodgers is a guitarist.
One of the strengths of the Mr Jukes project is that Steadman’s knowledge as a music nerd shines through. This guy who digs through crates and spends a lot of time on Discogs. His ability to bring all these sounds and put these artists in the same room together is masterful producing. The lengths Steadman went through to get samples cleared for the record is confirmation of his very honed vision.
The live show turned out to be an eight-person backing band featuring people who have played with the likes of the Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley, and Sharon Jones. The band was so good that it almost minimized Steadman’s contribution but not quite, because you remember Steadman organized the arrangement.
Going into this show, I was unsure how the crowd was going to handle it since it’s so different than Steadman’s old well-known band. But they loved it, as cheers and catcalls continued to ring out over the course of the night. The band and Steadman fed right off of that.
The assembly of singers on stage took turns trying to one-up each other. One of the vocalists delved into a cover of Lauryn Hill classic “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and then launched into a flute solo on the very same track after delivering the very difficult raps. This came after Steadman had brought out Los Angeles based singer Alexandria for their collab “Tears”.
Male singer Jonathan then did the late Charles Bradley proud for the vocals on “Grant Green”. I’m having a hard time describing just how much this guy killed it — going up and down the scale with seeming ease. Watch below:
BJ The Chicago Kid graced the stage for the banging “Angels/Your Love” — the song that first caught my attention from the project. It almost felt as though he raised his game after seeing all the singers in the band take turns killing it.
This negates just how juicy Steadman’s bass was, and how much depth the horns section brought to the arrangement. It honestly felt like I was taking in some of the best music of the ’60s and early ’70s, time traveling to do it.
I think this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2018, it completely caught me off guard in the same manner Tash Sultana did when I saw her last February at The Echo. This show would be a perfect fit for festivals, they knew how to get the crowd moving and there wasn’t a lull for even a second.
Even better news is Steadman doesn’t seem to be slowing down and is already working on new songs under the Mr Jukes moniker. Get to know him a little more in this Noisey feature and hope he comes back soon.
Photos by Todd Westphal