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26th November 2018

Live Review: Jake Bugg

On a dreary November evening, the folky sounds of Jake Bugg warm the soul in the picturesque King George’s Hall writes Louise Avey
Live Review: Jake Bugg
Jake Bugg. Photo: Ludmila Joaquina Valentina Buyo @ Flickr

Blackburn may seem an unlikely destination, but for Nottingham-born Jake Bugg, there isn’t a need for pretence. Much like his songs, which are often autobiographical, based on a far from glamorous upbringing noting drinking, drugs and growing up on Clifton council estate, the inspiration behind his first hit single ‘Trouble Town’.

The synthesised meditative music, with tones mimicking Indian fleet music, plays at the introduction as if to summon Jake Bugg onto the stage. With complimentary blue lighting, seeming to induce everyone into a state of calm. A nod to ‘Shangri La’, meaning a fictional faraway place, often safe and beautiful, which also provides the title of his 2013 album, taking a much more spiritual direction with the intricately of lyrics such as “memorise the mantra” and spreading the message of “peace and love”. The state of calm is only exemplified as Bugg seems to appear on stage, casually taking a seat and taking a drink of his G&T, dressed in all black, exuding his usual confidence.

Fresh off the back from his North America tour and beginning his UK solo acoustic tour Hearts That Strain, the stripped back nature of his set was well received by a seated audience, of seemingly loyal fans, who sung his every single note back to him. Despite winning awards such as 2015 NME awards best solo artist and playing prestigious festivals such as Ottawa BluesFest, Paleo festival and a gig at the iconic Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, Bugg has stayed humble in his disposition. This echoed through his minimalistic yet captivating performance.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the set was ‘Bigger Lover’, a softer, delicate song about love and longing. His voice stands alone, often seeming incongruous to his whole demeanour. In his usual retro folk style, this new song seems different, much more grown up. As reflected in his reluctance to play the “old stuff” as he responds to constant audience chanting for ‘Lightning Bolt’. But his style has evolved as he has grown as an artist. Instead, now he is working to “make every album a little different”.

When the eagerly-awaited introduction to ‘Lightning Bolt’ began, the crowd seemed to simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief. It was worth the wait. The atmosphere had built to the penultimate song during his stripped back set. The electric energy pulsed through the crowd as Jake Bugg stood and singing, the pace of his strumming quickened. Despite the constant to-and-fro of the interaction with the crowd and Jake Bugg, all were at one during his final iconic number.

It was a credit to Bugg, that he was able to keep in such high spirits, despite the lack of energy in the stage’s set up and setlist. But the anticipated energy finally delivered through much-loved songs that brought me back to my teenage days. As the crowd sang along, I felt like they understood the sentiment too. As ever, Jake Bugg is the perfect reminder that our upbringing and circumstances are secondary in comparison to talent and passion.


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