Live review: Jake Bugg @ Rock City 15/2/13

When Jake Bugg played rescue rooms last November the young guitar slinger was in the process of blowing up. Now, with a number one album under his belt and a nomination for best British Breakthrough Act at this year’s Brits – tonight’s gig is his home coming. An electric atmosphere and hero’s welcome greets the mop topped local lad.

Jake’s debut has received a great deal of praise, deservedly so, and the songs do not disappoint live, in Rock City they come into their own. Bugg instantly has the crowd’s attention with folky ballad ‘fire’ but things really kick-off on the thirds song with his utterances “Stuck in speed bump city where the only thing that’s pretty Is the thought of getting out”: the opening lines to Troubled town. Fervour breaks out, and the British equivalent of an apeshit howdown commences.

The country comparison is most apt for Bugs sound, especially live. In the mode of Johnny Cash. Bugg is accompanied by a his very own Tennessee Two-esque rhythm section that back him up to the hilt; energetic baselines and toe taping drums provide Jake with the musical space to shine. The frontman is a very accomplished musician himself, with searing bluesy guitar solo’s way above the ones on the record. Anyone who has listened to Bug’s voice instantly recognises the uniqueness of it – unapologetically British a mixture between Brett Anderson and Bob Dylan. In the ballads he creates an ephemeral nostalgia. In the upbeat songs he belts out raucous indie anthems. The set list is packed with them “Taste it” “Seen it all” and smack in the centre of the set, “Two Fingers” which draws the crowd into feverish chorus.

The band’s sound incorporates an extra bit of bite into its jangly acoustic guitars, that give the numbers that extra kick, that really gets the crowd going. His tracks connect with the audience on a level matched by few of his contemporaries especially since this is a local show, but these scenes will be repeated up and down the UK, because his songs have a prodigious depth that generate an excitement not dissimilar to the early songs of Alex Turner, but it’s not a far stretch to say that Bugg has the potential swagger to be a Young British Springsteen. His songs make men in the crowd twice his age feel nostalgic.

With his encore, the eighteen year old demonstrates his staggering talent: starting off with the heart stopping “Broken” a visceral acoustic ballad. The crowd is held still with its imminent ethereal splender. A Palpable quiet settles right before the band blows the top off with penultimate closer “Lightning bolt”, climaxing the set with Rowdy raucous pogoing and beer showers in the crowd. Cash’s influence is made undeniable with Bugg’s closing cover of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, he tells the audience it is one of his favourite songs. Bugg’s homecoming has been a triumph, though from the looks of his stage swagger, his coolness, there was never really any doubt that it would be.

by Joshua Schofield