Jake Bugg at Union Chapel
Jake Bugg broke into the music scene as a young man in 2012. He had the voice of someone twice his age, and the swagger of an 18-year-old with the world at his feet, which is what he was. His urgent, excited music showed a lust for life, but over the next five years his sound relaxed. Bugg’s latest release, Hearts That Strain, is more sanguine than his early albums, and maintains that melancholy that characterises most music created by young men with acoustic guitars. The angst and the speed of his earlier records have fallen away to melodic, calming music.
At the Union Chapel, Bugg plays for the fans, dipping in and out of his back catalogue, mainly performing tracks everyone knows. He opens the show with an ingratiating, nervous energy; as a performer he comes across as grounded and personable. Though he’s grown up a lot in five years, touring big venues and dating supermodels, he’s still in his early 20s and playing to a sold-out venue. He doesn’t come across as jaded or arrogant and he’s funny throughout – referencing the “cringey” music videos that accompanied the songs, or speaking about the boy that wrote them. And the venue is magical: a beautiful old church, serving hot chocolates with the performance. It’s a great, festive vibe.
The singer-songwriter plays only a couple of tracks from his new album, including the hit single Waiting, which goes down well enough. His live versions of early releases are the real highlights, Country Song and They Won’t Catch Me are two of the best of the evening. The crowd gets excited when he does the classics: Two Fingers and Lightning Bolt. Performing alone for well over an hour, Bugg makes plenty of little mistakes, but none of them spoil the songs or the mood. He plays fast, complicated guitar and sings wonderfully for the full time he’s on stage.
Jake Bugg’s had his critics of late, and struggling to “find his sound” has been one of the common comments. At the Union Chapel, alone on stage with his guitar, it didn’t feel like this artist was a man in search of his identity, but a man who knows who he is and why his fans love him.
Photos: Guifré de Peray
For further information and future events visit the Jake Bugg website here.
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