Live Review: Jake Bugg Live @ The Royal Albert Hall 21/2/14
After a day of hosting a song writing master class for local students, The 19 year old singer-songwriter from Nottingham took to the stage of Britain’s most prestigious venue last night for an evening of surprises, special guests and Shangri La. The night was an uncensored, explicit demonstration of how far this boy from Nottingham had come in just one year.
Foregoing Jake’s long awaited night at the Albert Hall, he gave his day sharing his song writing techniques with a group of 16-18 year olds. The students, from London’s Tri-Borough Music Hub, were also taught backing vocals for Jake’s song Broken, which they were to perform with Jake later that night. Warning against shows like ITV’s The X Factor, Jake said: ‘A lot of young people are quite besotted by fame. They want to see their faces on the side of buses. But I couldn’t really care less about the fame side of it. I knew music was all I ever wanted to do.’
As the beer glasses filled, so did the UK’s cathedral to music. The Royal Albert Hall’s theatre-in-the-round layout somehow manages to feel intimate despite seating thousands. Before the gig, Bugg said: ‘It’s such an iconic venue and so many of my idols that inspired me have performed there. I can’t believe I am following in their footsteps.’
Bugg opened the show with an incredibly intimate acoustic set. With an empty stage and a guitar, he reminded the crowd of his roots. After a short break he returned with the support of his band. The Royal Albert Hall suddenly felt like a different place, with pounding bass and shuffling drums. Before long, it was time to introduce the first special, surprise guest of the night: BBC’s Sound of 2012 – Michael Kiwanuka. Jake took a step back and supported Michael as he stole the stage for two songs. After injecting some soul into the evening Michael left Jake, with a hug, to reclaim the stage.
There was of course only one song to do this with – Two Fingers. After rattling off a few more of his well-practised original songs, it was time for Jakes next special guest. Making less of an impact than Kiwanuka, but nonetheless raising the evening further, Johnny Marr bought some rock and roll to the stage. The set ended in appropriate fashion with Jake’s latest single, Slumville Sunrise to wild whooping and screaming. The band exited the stage, leaving hearts racing and ears wanting more.
The impatient crowd soon began demanding the encore. Chants of ‘Jakey, Jakey, Jakey!’ introduced Jake back onto the stage. He bought with him the students he’d spent the day with and together, they performed a solemn and beautiful rendition of his song Broken. The song, from his debut album, was elevated to another level with the help of the student choir. It was a perfect, reflective encore song that showed the sophistication and maturity that Jake has developed in his music over the past year.
No Jake Bugg gig would be complete without a Lightning Bolt, so Michael Kiwanuka and Jonny Marr joined the stage once more for a final outro to what had been a very special night. Each taking their turn to solo, Bugg, Kiwanuka and Marr jammed on the song’s riff before the screaming guitar’s final notes rung out to a standing ovation.
When I saw Jake Bugg last year in his hometown, things were moving fast for him. His potential was unquestioned. Last night may have seen that potential realised. As someone who is genuinely engaged with song writing and who rejects the X-Factor culture in world music, Jake Bugg has become a teacher and a role model for young people. Last night, it was easy to forget that he’s a young person too.