Jake Bugg – The Academy Dublin (10th February 2013)
And I’m not sure why anyone ever thought he was. Other than the fact that Jake Bugg doesn’t say very much and intermittently changes between electric and acoustic guitars, I really don’t know where the Dylanesque comparisons came from. This isn’t a bad thing anyway, I mean, who really wants to be the new Bob Dylan? It’d be a difficult undertaking for sure, considering the actual Bob Dylan is still very much alive, though perhaps not up for a great deal of kicking.
Much-heralded Dublin brothers Hudson Taylor, the exact antithesis of what Jake Bugg is supposed to be, were perhaps the most bizarre choice of opening act that I can imagine. Whilst these lads both possess superb voices, I’m not one of the many who are jumping on the Hudson Taylor bandwagon just yet. From what I’ve heard, their songs are little more than AM Radio fodder delivered along with a wholesome brand which has been carefully crafted by their label in the same nu-folk vein as Mumford & Sons
There was an interesting mix of people in the sold-out crowd, ranging from awe-struck teenage girls who thought they’d found the antidote to the manufactured pop their friends listen to, to the somewhat more mature, perhaps drawn to the 18 year old’s “old-school” rock ‘n’ roll stylings.
Bugg nonchalantly strode on to the stage, barely acknowledged his audience and decided to launch bravely into the mellow closing track to his début album, Fire, following that almost immediately with a little known track from his Taste It EP, Kentucky. Throughout the show there was little or no interaction with the audience, and whilst it didn’t make for the most compelling performance I’ve ever seen, it certainly allowed the Nottingham teenager’s unique voice to speak for itself. You’ve got to remember that he is a young lad who probably thinks that being this aloof makes him the coolest thing in the world… He should soon learn.
Backed up by a solid rhythm section, the somewhat more up-tempo songs such as Trouble Town and Lightning Bolt showcased Bugg’s great range of vocal capabilities. My two favourite songs from the album, Seen It All and Simple As This followed one another with quick succession and were certainly highlights for me on the night; the stark imagery in the former drawing you right into the confused atmosphere of the story with the prowess of someone twice his age. He followed the haunting Slide with two new songs which allowed him to put the four-hundred guitars he brought with him to proper use, showing off some rather deft guitar work and making for the most exciting segment of the set.
Somehow, despite a total lack of enthusiasm from the stage, the audience were totally enamoured with Bugg, roaring ecstatically between each song, and booing as he announced that Lightning Bolt would be his final (pre-encore) song, prompting his only smile of the night. Beautiful ballads like Broken allude to the songwriter he very well could be in a few years, and moments of brilliance in songs like The Ballad of Mr Jones proving that he really can light up a room when he wants to. The setlist was well-thought-out and even included a cover of Folsom Prison Blues, which, whilst not the most fantastic cover I’ve ever heard, was a charming tribute to what he claimed to be “one of his favourite songs.”
I’m not going to pretend for a second that I believe the idea that Jake Bugg is somehow part of a revolution; that he’s some kind of anti-manufactured music, free-spirit setting out to change the world, one honest song at a time. I mean, let’s not forget that he’s already signed to a major label, his single Country Song was used in a beer advertisement and most of the tracks on his début album were co-written with Iain Archer of Snow Patrol fame. That’s not to say he’s not an outstanding talent however, here is a young guy with a fantastically unique voice who’s singing his way out of a tough council estate in Nottingham and treating us to some really enjoyable guitar music. There’s a lot more to come from this young man, let’s just watch this space and hope the fame doesn’t go straight to his head.