Jake Bugg at the Brixton Academy
The lights dim and a smokescreen fills the stage. A shadow appears. As he steps into the spotlight, it is immediately clear that this is not Jake Bugg’s first time at the Brixton Academy. He has come a long way from the scrappy 18-year-old lad from Nottingham who took the charts by storm in 2012 and has visibly grown into himself – though he retains his trademark terseness and still dresses in skinny jeans and sweatshirts as if he is just off up town on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Bugg begins with an acoustic set pulling out On My One, the first single from his new album of the same name. His live performance is even better than his recordings; his voice is exceptional and the guitar work blends the rhythm and timing of a good pop artist with the virtuosity of a country or blues player, fingering his scales with ease.
It is when he goes electric that the crowd really gets going, and old favourites like Two Fingers and Messed Up Kids get the biggest cheers. Bugg displays his vulnerability in ballads like Broken, and often seems most at home on stage when it is just him, his guitar and a spotlight. While he takes the time to say a few words now and then, he is not one for superfluous chat.
The new songs have fuller arrangements, and Gimme the Love kicks in with its thumping clubland beat twinned with Bugg’s driven guitar – but it doesn’t seem to elicit the same rapture as his early hits. He closes with Lightning Bolt and the crowd erupts. Bugg has certainly grown as both a performer and an artist; he is easily one of the best live acts around today. But at such a young age, it seems his biggest hits are already four years old, and his new material ultimately fails to add much to what is otherwise a stellar live show.
Photos: Silvia Sternardi
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