Riding on a wave of success since his self-titled 2012 debut, Nottingham-kid-done-good Jake Bugg never fails the crowd before him. Nor does the crowd ever fail him. Three years on since his second album ‘Shangri La’, ‘On My One’ fired the 22 year-old back into the indie mix. His debut topped the charts on its way to going double platinum and his big break across the pond was down to Rick Robin-produced follow up ‘Shangri La’ in 2013 – this was before he had even made it out of his teens.
A lone Jake Bugg emerges to stand before a sold out O2 Academy, 7 nights into to his UK tour. Signature white tee and jeans present, the only things accompanying him is an acoustic guitar, a solitary spotlight and a paint-splattered backdrop similar to graffiti you would see on the side of train tracks. Despite ‘On My One’ only being released back in June and after receiving some underwhelming reviews, the title track opens the setlist only to be met with the voices of around 2,000 fans.
A transition quicker than that of Bob Dylan, Bugg switches the acoustic guitar for an electric and dives into big 2012 track ‘Two Fingers’ to which it receives a raucous response. The fusion of country drawl and alternative rock exists to give the dingy and dark room some warmth. The electric opening of non-stop anthems ‘Messed Up Kids’ to ‘Seen It All’ are two youthful touches, nodding towards his youth in the Clifton council estate of Nottingham.
Emotion sets in with ‘On My One’ standout song ‘Love, Hope and Misery’, a bluesy-rocky ballad-esque track that Bugg has always had a knack for. ‘Me and You’ followed closely with a flawless vocal, much fuller and robust than on the studio tracks. New track ‘Bitter Salt’ shakes up the crowd, a backbeat reverberating through the streets of Leeds.
Bugg is not the type for onstage humour, his feet wielded to the floor almost throughout the whole performance. The awkward shyness and lack of talking comes through in a way that paves the way for a sole focus on the music itself. Maybe starting to mature vocally with age, his concentration and confidence is evident.
2012 classic ‘Taste It’ riles up the crowd only to be a catalyst for 2013’s ‘Slumville Sunrise’ before the acoustic solo of heartbreak ballad ‘Broken’ gives space for Bugg’s strengths to shine. The minutes of hummed silence in-between guitar are the quietest minutes the night has seen, not even a bulky man shouting and believe me, there were a lot.
Undoubtedly closing the set, ‘Lightning Bolt’ was quick to generate the last spasm of energy. The skiffle of his signature track, defining everything of the Jake Bugg sound, evokes a football-crowd roar.
There is no encore.
Jake Bugg – treats them mean and it really does keep them keen.
Words by Brianna Riley