Concert Review: Jake Bugg
Do you think we recognized the talent of brilliant, legendary musicians prior to the fame in their career? Did the few who first saw Nick Drake playing on a street corner in Paris have a suspicion of his brilliance? What about Johnny Cash or Neil Young? Is it possible to spot a rock ‘n’ roll legend…?
A little piece of history was made on Newport Music Hall’s stage last night, whether you were there to witness it or not. Jake Bugg hauled all the way from Nottingham, England, in the midst of his 2014 album tour, Shangri La, performing on behalf of CD102.5. This twenty-year-old-Brit is comparable to these legends I mentioned above — he just happened to be born sixty years later than the rest. Witnessing a young, rock ‘n’ roll luminary share his music was an enlightening experience, something I truly felt I would never experience.
In a white cotton t-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes, Jake Bugg was a modest kiddo. Without muttering one word to the crowd, Bugg played his sixteen song set before uttering his first words, “thank you,” to the audience. Halfway through his set, Bugg began playing his anthem, “Two Fingers.” The crowd hooted and hollered as Bugg began to sing “I drink to remember, I smoke to forget…” lyrics that I can’t help but foresee as becoming very iconic for the young musician. Bugg became everything he needed, wanted and could be when his guitar was in his hands. Very aggressive yet deliberate, there were moments when the audience forgot everything about his charming, English voice. Jaws dropped as Bugg contributed unique, picky guitar riffs in every track. He was very much in control of what he wanted to play and how he wanted to play it, and he got a reaction out of the audience within an instant. With Bugg’s guitar in his his hands, there was a comfort and power that rested in his hands and around his neck — a clear physical and mental extension for the singer/songwriter.
With two albums released in two years, Bugg’s records carry extreme diversity from track-to-track. During the live performance, the rapid changing of my heart-rate made it clear to me how emotionally diverse this show was. The sweet, slow-tempo’d songs brought spectators hands to their chests, and hips to a sway, serenading us the songs of our Great Grandfathers. Immediately after the tear jerker, Bugg continued with “Taste it,” a gritty, bluesy guitar-heavy track, introducing the crowd to the scene of a hidden bar in the 1940s, where everyone is slamming whiskey and dancing suggestively. Bugg further tightens his hold around the audience as he plays out a love ballad, bringing all of the attention to the adoring women. His three song encore began with “Song About Love,” giving the crowd a moment of peace before the beast of a rock ‘n’ roll storm came through. As I watched the women fawn over young Jake Bugg, I realized I was fawning over young Jake Bugg. He’s a twenty year-old heartthrob.
If the entire show didn’t already solidify my feelings for Bugg, I further realized how much I appreciate him as a musician and young man after he began playing the opening acoustic riff for “My, My, Hey, Hey.” Bugg was playing classic Neil Young, and it sounded as much of his as it sounded Neil’s. With the crowd yelling the “my’s” and “hey’s” with Bugg, the show instantly became warm and intimate, exactly what may have been missing during his set earlier. Bugg related to audience very closely, and brought an artist that clearly inspires his writing right there on stage with him. Bugg closed out the night entirely with his single, “Lightening Bolt,” heals were being clicked and hips were being thrown. Bugg has much history to make, and it makes me blush to think I was a part of that last night.
Photo by Antonio Arellano.