Tuesday night saw the O2 Academy Brixton packed out for the penultimate UK date of Jake Bugg’s current tour.
After an interminable soundcheck, an expectant crowd held their breath as Jake Bugg walked alone out of the shadows and up to the microphone, greeting the audience like he might the regulars at his local. With spotlights primed, Bugg launched into a couple of solo renditions of songs from his new album, On My One. It was initially a curious experience to hear the metallic sound of his guitar strings meld almost completely with the down-south colour he lends to his voice, with the size of the Academy’s hall amplifying the effect. His performance of The Love We’re Hoping For could have been stronger, but the fragility of the song certainly shone through.
After bringing on the rest of the band to the audience’s delight, it was time to make some real noise as a full-on epilepsy-inducing light-show kicked in. As a massive abstract canvas lit up in the backdrop, the audience enthusiastically sang along to 2012 single, Two Fingers. Bitter Salt and Seen It All further lifted the tempo, before a heartfelt performance of the confessional Love, Hope and Misery brought it back down.
Messed Up Kids followed Me And You, as Bugg’s segueing skills and frequent guitar solos demonstrated just how comfortable he has become with his instrument compared to his earlier years. Never Wanna Dance conjured that sunset-watching feeling nicely, while Put Out The Fire, There’s A Beast And We All Feed It brought back that foot-stomping, bluegrass-infused folk-rock rhythm. Next came Slumville Sunrise, a track inspired by Bugg’s hometown life in Clifton, and the nagging feeling of how acutely it resonates with the results of the EU Referendum (Clifton residents averaged close to 70% support for Leave).
The introspective and emotionally charged Simple Pleasures was a comforting lament, before the delightfully hard hitting, possibly Azealia Banks inspired – with somewhat cryptic but punchy lyrics delivered at a slightly staccatoed high speed – Gimme The Love. The rollercoaster then continued as the audience gladly joined Jake in a solo rendition of Broken. He closed with a bang, ending on the ever popular Lightning Bolt, and didn’t tarry on stage as he thanked and bade Brixton goodbye.
So did the fans get what they came for? What you can be sure of is they didn’t leave disappointed. Despite only recently releasing a new record, Jake did well to balance his song selection across his albums, with most of the favourite hits seeing play. Arguably he doesn’t need to do a whole lot more with the catalogue of hits he already has. Considering the mainstream success he’s had with the country/folk genre, despite it not being traditional on this side of the pond, it’s not too hard to see why NME initially compared him to Dylan (even if it was a rather one-dimensional comparison).
It wasn’t by any means an avant-garde musical spectacle, but it’s not meant to be – Bugg isn’t trying to portray extravagance. The nature of his music, along with the natural character he brings to the stage, establishes a bond with the audience. In a sense it’s like seeing your talented musical friend play on the school stage, the difference here being the stage’s size. He may not be much of a showman, but in reality all Jake Bugg needs to do to put on a show, is be himself.
Featured image: Daniel Claudín.