Jake Bugg – Nottingham Rock City, Friday February 15
This review originally appeared in the Nottingham Post.
And so, it came to pass: on the day that Jake Bugg was announced as the first ever Nottingham act to headline Splendour, our first homegrown act to top the album charts duly became the first ever Nottingham act to sell out Rock City. Oh, and let’s not forget the small matter of a potential Brit Award, for British Breakthrough Act; voting closed on the day of the show, and the results will be revealed on Wednesday. And yes, that would be yet another first for a Nottingham act.
Never mind selling out Rock City; Jake could probably have filled the Arena as well. It’s hard to believe that just over twelve months ago, he was coming to the end of a residency at the Glee Club, but the eighteen-year old’s rise has been astonishingly sudden, blindsiding many seasoned industry observers.
He’s becoming a bit of a style icon, too. There have been gigs for Burberry, fashion shoots for FHM, and in the Rock City foyer, anyone eager to get the Bugg Look could buy branded polos and button-down check shirts.
Inside the packed main hall, two things immediately struck you: the extraordinary buzz of cheerful anticipation, and the sheer diversity of the punters, which ranged from up-for-it teens to beaming fifty-somethings, and even a few senior citizens. And this was a proper city crowd, as well; quite unlike the studenty throng who had turned out for the NME tour three days earlier. Family members were there in force, along with film director Shane Meadows, BAFTA-winning actress Vicky McClure, some of the lads from Dog Is Dead, and a crew from Radio One.
Stepping out to a homecoming hero’s welcome, Jake began his set in a low-key fashion, with a solo rendition of Fire. The band struck up for Kentucky, taken from the Taste It EP, and augmented with a hint of Duane Eddy-style twang.
Trouble Town brought the first of many throaty sing-alongs, followed by the next single Seen It All, a world-weary tale of drugs and violence. Simple As This nodded towards early Dylan, while the anthemic Slide bore comparison to Jake’s new mate, Noel Gallagher.
As promised, there was a new song, Slumville Sunrise. Powered by a dirty, speedy rock riff, it was a musical cousin of Lightning Bolt and a lyrical cousin of Trouble Town – are Slumville and Speed Bump City the same place? – which climaxed with a fantastic rhythm-and-blues guitar solo.
A solo acoustic section – Someone Told Me, Country Song, Note To Self – calmed things down, in preparation for the final run of singles: Two Fingers, Taste It, and the ever-thrilling Lightning Bolt. For the encore, a stripped-down version of Broken was given added power by the crowd, whose voices swelled up for each chorus. A storming cover of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues closed the set, leaving the hall on the highest of highs.
Jake’s a man of few words, and stage patter just isn’t his style, but you could sense his quiet delight throughout the show, as those heavy-lidded eyes coolly absorbed the whole spectacle. “It’s been a real pleasure to play here tonight”, he told us, “and I hope you’ve all enjoyed your evening.”
Unspoilt and unfazed by his sudden success, Jake continues to grow as a performer, adapting to the demands of a larger stage without compromising the qualities which have won him so many new fans. Those big arenas? It’ll be no sweat at all. He’s here for the long haul, and Nottingham will continue to be here for him too, cheering him every step of the way.
Set list: Fire, Kentucky, Love Me The Way You Do, Trouble Town, Seen It All, Simple As This, Slide, Slumville Sunrise, Ballad Of Mr Jones, Someone Told Me, Country Song, Note To Self, Someplace, Two Fingers, Taste It, Lightning Bolt, Broken, Folsom Prison Blues.