No airs or graces, just gratitude and talent as Bugg shows he’s still a diamond in the rough
In the week NME announced that Friday’s issue would be the last printed copy of the magazine, there’s been a national nostalgia for what many would call ‘real music’: a hankering for guitar bands who stuck a finger up to the establishment and reinvented aggy as their public persona.
In November 2012, a sombre-looking teenager fresh off a Nottingham council estate graced the cover of the magazine. Jake Bugg had scored a number one debut album and was about to head to the States with Noel Gallagher. It seemed the world was at his feet. He may not have been boisterous or spoke about much other than his loathing of popular music, but he was about to make waves in the industry.
Lesser known tracks ‘Saffron’ and ‘Strange Creatures’ set the tone for Manchester’s Albert Hall show on Monday night. With the rain tipping down on the iconic venue, an intimate setting was more than welcomed. Choosing to sit for the understated opening of his gig, Bugg showed off his acoustic prowess as he comfortably meandered through slower melodies.
Including B-sides and unreleased tracks in the set showed Bugg still does things his way, keeping the setlist fluid to incorporate his mood. When he stood up to “play a bit of the more upbeat stuff”, his physical demeanour remained as cool as a cucumber, the way he’s always been. He’s hardly a crowd pleaser.
There’s been ups and downs in Bugg’s career, and it was poignant nothing was performed from the risky On My One, but there was no mistaking his beautifully Dylan-esque tones with that East Midlands twang is something to behold. Darker themes from the latest project intertwined with those much-loved scruff-of-the-neck Nottingham tales of youth from his debut.
Choppy, country-tinged oozers like ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘Taste It’ seemed to have transcended that laddy space of Bugg’s youth and matured like fine wine, powerful as ever even without the support of a band, and lit only by spotlight.
‘Broken’ is always a highlight with Bugg, one of those drop-a-pin moments every time without fail. It’s still astonishing that a young lad whose world seemed so limited wrote that song, but maybe that’s where the best tracks come from.
Of all the rock’n’rollers who’ve had their ugly mugs slapped on the cover of the music lover’s favourite mag, with no gimmicks, airs or graces, perhaps Bugg is one the realest of all.