Jake Bugg at the Royal Albert Hall
There isn’t a part of the market that Jake Bugg hasn’t got covered; teenage girls lust after his Nottinghamshire drawl and inherent swagger, fans of nineties Britpop admire his catchy songs and unavoidable likeness to Noel Gallagher (Bugg actually supported Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on the US leg of their tour in 2012), and aging rock and roll and country fans toe tap along to the infectious melodies and gruff style reminiscent of Johnny Cash and early Neil Young.
In little more than two years, Bugg has released two solo albums and has been nominated for countless awards including a BRIT Award and 2013’s Mercury Music Prize. But his instant success is clearly no flash in the pan – there is longevity in his music and nowhere is there more proof than here, where he headlines the first Albert Session of 2014, at the Royal Albert Hall.
He opens without a band, playing a short set of old and new material accompanied only by his own shimmering guitar. Wearing a crisp white shirt and suit (an homage to the occasion perhaps), there is no teenage angst here. It is a mature and confident opening that brings the crowd to a hushed silence.
After a quick break and a change into his trademark all black ensemble, Bugg is back onstage with a full band and hurtles into There’s a Beast and We All Feed It, the first track on his most recent album, Shangri La. His thumping style of folk-rock suits the historic venue and, while the heavy production works hard to fill the cavernous space, it never feels contrived or overdone.
He is joined on stage twice, first by singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka with whom they cover two of Kiwanuka’s songs (Worry Walks Beside Me and Tell Me a Tale). Kiwanuka, who topped the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll, is known for his lilting, honeyed voice and soft melodies; it is refreshing to see him sit so well against Bugg’s heavier, rockier sound. Next up is The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr, who plays blistering guitar solos on Slumville Sunrise and Kingpin, that couldn’t fail to bring even the Albert Hall’s most stalwart sitters to their feet. Bugg then invites a choir onstage for a heartfelt encore of Broken, that betrays how momentous this occasion is for Bugg, if only for second, before he regains his cool and finishes up with a rip-roaring rendition of his biggest hit, Lightning Bolt.
There is little crowd interaction in Bugg’s performance other than a few grumbled thank yous, but his audience don’t care. It really is all about the music. His immense talent and rock star cool hide the fact that Jake Bugg is still a teenager form a council estate in Nottingham. The boy done good.
Photos: Erol Birsen
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