Jake Bugg @ The Enmore Theatre 20.04.14

Jake Bugg played an outstanding show at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre, with a sell-out crowd at just 19 years of age, he sure is one helluva talented young man. As I stood out the front of the Enmore waiting for a friend I got chatting to a drunk, rowdy Brit who had been kicked out before the first support act had even started. Turns out, the crowd consisted of a lot rowdy British men, which some people say is the reason behind the ‘sold out’ status of the show. But with Jake Bugg’s growing popularity among Australian fans, I tend to disagree.

the growlCameron Avery, frontman for The Growl, was the opener. His acoustic take on The Growl’s generally heavy blues-rock songs made for an interesting use of loops and vocal effects to create beautifully textured sounds, while still maintain the band’s alternative-rock feel. On a side note, he also has a killer beard (above). Brisbane band The Creases were on next, channeling major Brit-pop vibes with their turtleneck shirts, shitty haircuts and jangling guitars. I had mixed feelings about their set but for what seem like a young band, they held  their own on stage. I have to make a special mention of their cover of the 90s hit ‘She’s So High‘ by Tal Bachman because they nailed it. The Creases have also just been announced on the 2014 Splendour In The Grass lineup.

Jake Bugg‘s show at the Enmore was definitely one of kind. It’s not often that you find a musician who’s stage presence and musicianship has an audience captivated from start to finish, hanging off every word, even though the only words he spoke were “Thank you very very much”. Bugg played a mix of songs from his latest album Shangri La and self-titled debut album, as well as a haunting cover of Neil Young‘s ‘My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)‘ as part of the encore.

Bugg isn’t the most lively character and, although he came across as being very nonchalant at times, there were fleeting moments of endearment, mostly during guitar solos, where a smile would creep across his face. The stage set up was understated and he was only accompanied by an enthusiastic drummer and down-to-business bass guitarist, ensuring that everyone’s attention was on the man and the music.

At just 19, it’s clear that the Nottingham-born singer songwriter is right at home on stage, as he casually walked on, picked up his guitar and before saying a word, played ‘Kentucky’ and ‘There’s A Beast And We All feed It’. Next up was ‘Trouble Town’. As the first single off his debut album, I stood listening to the lyrics and admiring Bugg’s songwriting skills. There is however, a clear progression between his first and second albums, as he diverges from soft country rock to a harder-edged and more mature sound.

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With a 20 song set list there were of course a few standout songs that had the audience singing along to every word. And I mean every word… Jake Bugg fans are very enthusiastic. I don’t think some of the crowd knew the meaning of the song ‘Two Fingers’ but FYI “So I hold two fingers up to yesterday” means “fuck you yesterday”, not the peace sign. ‘Broken’ was undoubtedly the highlight of the show, just as it was in 2013. It’s a special moment when you’re singing every word to such a beautiful song with 1600 other people all feeling similar emotions.

The set list had been very clearly thought out and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ was the last song before Jake Bugg walked off stage for the first time, after thanking us all very very much in his deep Northern English accent. I generally hate encores because nowadays they usually stand for nothing but this time I was holding out for a dreamy rendition of ‘Song About Love’. He delivered everything I hoped for and more. By this stage a lot of the crowd were drunk and rowdy but we all sang along and no one cared because god, Jake Bugg was good. The  show ended on a high note with ‘Lightening Bolt’ to drive a bolt of energy through the crowd and make this a show to remember .

I have heard mixed reviews about the way Jake Bugg performs, with some people showing indignation towards his lack of interaction; however, as I sit here writing this review, all the while reminiscing and listening through every Jake Bugg song to date, I can honestly say that this was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. At just 19 years of age he has already been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Oasis, and has been nominated for a Mercury Award and 2 NME awards, plus a host of others. Here’s hoping that Jake Bugg’s career is as successful and long lived as his predecessors.

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