O2 Academy, Boscombe

Jake Bugg

Three days after seeing the Sunset Sons at the O2 I’m back to see Nottingham’s Jake Bugg take the stage as part of a world tour to promote his third album “On My One”. It’s a little bit surprising to see him here, as the last time he came to town Bugg played a sold out show at the much larger BIC. What does it mean, is his star beginning to wane, does he now prefer smaller intimate venues? I suspect five years into a career, the initial rush of success has subsided and he has now found his niche in an overcrowded market of singer / songwriters, and looking at the crowd tonight that niche is broad and far reaching, from teenagers, to middle aged couples onto an older generation like myself who see him as a throwback to the days of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

A strange thing happened on entering the venue, I was searched by a bouncer for chewing gum! Forget the concealed drink, drugs, illegal recording equipment and firearms, I was told they didn’t want the carpet to get messed up, talk about priorities. Anyway moving on, we decided to go upstairs to the balcony for a better vantage point just as support band Georgie finished their set to muted applause, I suspect we didn’t miss much. Dead on nine o’clock Jake strolled onto a stage bathed in blue light with his acoustic guitar and picked his way through the title track of his new album “On My One”, a minimal blues ruminating on loneliness. He continued in a similar low key with “Strange Creatures”, “The Love We’re Hoping For” and “Simple as This” before bringing on his band of bass, drums and keyboards. The theme of a Jake Bugg show is minimalism, black clothing, no flashy backdrop or props and occasional short, mumbled song introductions, the only sop to this being a rock gig was the light show, into which, I suspect he had little or no input. For Jake it’s all about the songs and some of them are corkers, he certainly has a way with a melody as displayed on “Two Fingers”, a lament on leaving his native Clifton, a rundown estate in Nottingham, “Seen it All”, “Trouble Town” and “Messed Up Kids”, another song about Clifton and the school friends he left behind.

Jake Bugg
Jake Bugg 1

But for me the gig took off half way through with “Kingpin” a track off his second album “Shangri-La”, to keep up the momentum he followed with “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It”, “Taste It” and “Slumrise Sunrise”, on these songs the band opened up and gave Bugg the opportunity to show off some impressive guitar licks. As the gig built up to a conclusion “Gimme the Love” was absolutely thunderous, by contrast the penultimate “Broken”, with Bugg back on his acoustic, was beautiful, a haunting song that roused the crowd into a singalong. Anyone with only a passing knowledge of his repertoire could guess the final number of the night, “Lightning Bolt”, this song will probably be a millstone around his neck for the rest of his career, but who cares, and it’s great. A terse thank you, a wave from the band and they were gone, in typical Bugg fashion there was no encore.

What to make of a guy who has a total lack of stage presence, no thought of interacting with a crowd or a willingness to entertain. In some ways it can be slightly frustrating, but there again for someone who has seen Bob Dylan and Van Morrison on a regular basis over the years I’ve kind of got used to grumpy old buggers letting the music do the talking. The only difference is, the former pair are legends with enormous back catalogues, and the latter is only twenty-two with three albums under his belt. There is a long way to go yet, but as long as he doesn’t let the quality control slip he could be around for a few more years yet, all he needs to do is lighten up a bit and give a bit more to the crowd, he might be surprised by the response he gets back.

Set List
1. On My One
2. Strange Creatures
3. The Love We’re Hoping For
4. Simple As This
5. Two Fingers
6. Bitter Salt
7. Seen It All
8. Love, Hope and Misery
9. Me and You
10. Messed Up Kids
11. Never Wanna Dance
12. Trouble Town
13. Put Out the Fire
14. Kingpin
15. There’s a Beast We All Feed It
16. Taste It
17. Slumville Sunrise
18. Simple Pleasures
19. Gimme the Love
20. Broken
21. Lightning Bolt


Words by John Cherry.

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