Home News Review: Mr Jukes and Barney Artist at Thekla in Bristol

Review: Mr Jukes and Barney Artist at Thekla in Bristol


When Bombay Bicycle Club broke onto the scene in 2005 and quickly cemented themselves as one of the UK’s most popular indie bands, it would have been hard to imagine frontman Jack Steadman teaming up with a rapper who fuses hip hop and jazz.

It sounds like an odd pairing on paper, but anyone who has listened to The Locket by Mr Jukes – the alias of Steadman’s offshoot solo project – and Barney Artist, will tell you that it works.

Weeks before the collaborative album was launched back in August, Barney Artist said the project was all about “great vibes with a meaningful message” – and that also neatly sums up tonight’s performance at a sold out Thekla.

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Following an impressive warm-up set from up-and-coming MC Manik and a medley of classic hip hop tracks from DJ Chux, who is on scratching duties for the night, the atmosphere couldn’t be further away from your typical slumberous Sunday evening as the likable duo of the Bombay Bicycle Club singer and enigmatic rapper take to the stage.

The latter is almost reduced to tears early on as the crowd show their appreciation after set opener, The Locket. “I can’t cry, I’m a rapper,” he jokes as he dabs his eyes with his sleeve. Steadman, who is on bass duties, first unleashes his instantly recognisable vocals on Poems, at which point Barney shouts “you sexy, sexy beast” at him, which raises a smile from the bespectacled musical maestro and belly laughs from many in front of them.

But the laughter is then replaced with raw emotion and reflection as the lights fade away and the MC looks back on the challenges of the past two years, dedicating the gospel-tinged Leaving Us In The Light to those who have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic. It’s a poignant moment that concludes with the pair embracing on stage. “That one got me,” chokes Barney. He wasn’t the only one, it would seem.

Mr Jukes and Barney Artist at Thekla
Mr Jukes and Barney Artist at Thekla

Mr Jukes’ eclectic debut album was a true masterpiece and fans of it in the crowd, which you would imagine is everyone, aren’t left empty handed as Angels and Grant Green, arguably two of the LP’s finest numbers, are played live with a hip hop twist to great effect. No Bombay Bicycle Club tracks make the setlist however, but the band’s loyal followers do have a chance to pay their homage to Steadman when Barney eulogises the “underrated musical genius” and does his best to embarrass him.

There’s also time for another hip hop medley, concluding with a rendition of Kanye West’s Touch The Sky which sends the crowd wild, before the set finishes with the brilliant Vibrate and then an encore of the equally superb Check The Pulse, both from The Locket. The energy and passion from all three musicians on stage is truly infectious and reciprocated by the crowd, who are lapping up every minute.

Rewind a few years ago to when Bombay Bicycle Club reformed and very few would have imagined these two talented but very different musicians getting in the studio together, before a UK live tour, but we should be thankful they did, and those who were at this gig should count themselves especially lucky.

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