The young British troubadour Jake Bugg singing live at the Fillmore sounds exactly like he does on his records. Slightly nasal, seemingly aloof and calling to mind our most iconic Bob Dylan vibe - from the “Freewheelin” years of 1963.
He delivered a textbook set to the sold-out Fillmore crowd on Sun, Sept 29. But as it was the real-Bugg himself and not a record we were listening to, it might have been nice if the rather dour 19-year-old could have smiled a little more and made an attempt to engage with the audience.
He has been much touted as the latest savior of Brit guitar rock, though at last check Brit rock did not appear to need any saving. Granted there is a definite plethora of synth-pop, trip-hop electronica-inspired bands out there but there is as big a contingent of guitar-rock bands too. It’s not all boy bands and manufactured pop if as always, you look beyond the surface.
But Bugg is undeniably talented and will be a torchbearer of sorts for his brand of Brit pop, folk rock. It is that unique country twang, mashed up with a Nottingham drawl and the kind of street-wise cred and Northern attitude that the Gallagher brothers had in buckets. It probably explains why Noel Gallagher thinks Bugg is the bee’s knees and invited him to tour with his band last year.
The elder Gallagher might have even whispered in his ear about his experience of a much-hyped feud in the press with another big band of the moment and how that can up your chances of more free press. As not long after, Bugg took the bait of slagging One Direction off for “being terrible and famous only for their looks”. Tsk, tsk.
But hype and malarkey aside, Bugg’s twang coupled with the sweet romanticism of his songs sets him apart even from the current crop of Brit folk-rock acts like Mumford & Sons. “Broken”, “Country Song”and “Simple As This” all offer sharp observations and heartfelt lyrics of a life yearning so palpable yet universal. Bugg may have gotten flack for the fact that professional writers help pen those songs but they are truly his.
The Fillmore crowd which was a broad mix of fans of all ages included older country-loving couples with their daughters in tow, young parents with their even younger tweens, and the hipsters all seem equally enamored of the young poet.
Singing and playing several guitars with such style, flair and efficiency, accompanied only by a bassist and drummer, his raw talent was in full view. He also showcased a couple of new songs from his upcoming sophomore album which the NME has announced will be titled, "Shangri-La" after producer Rick Rubin's Malibu studio where the album was recorded.
Bugg proves that there is a whole lot more where the first album came from with “Me & You” which has the same charm as the best of his debut, with a catchy refrain“…but they won’t catch me and you” interspersed with a jangly guitar riff not unlike something you would expect from American Seventies folk-rock band, Bread.
“Song About Love” is a heartfelt lament about a failed relationship which is perhaps about his dalliance with model, Cara Delevingne. Bugg has a knack for stripped-back acoustics, a Youtube cover he does of Hazey Jane II by seventies singer-songwriter, Nick Drake, is just mesmerizing but he shows that just as with "Lightning Bolt" he can give us a run for our money with the faster-paced tunes too.
He ends the set with two pacier new tunes - "Slumville Sunrise" and “What Doesn’t Kill You” which has a punkish sensibility and rhythm not unlike The Clash at their rockabilly best.
It was only after Bugg re-emerged for the encore with a Neil Young cover, and a crackin’ rendition of "Lightning Bolt" that we saw him smile and look pleased to be there. Perhaps at 19, despite his tough Clifton side, the boy is still just a little shy. And you can’t fault him for that.
Seen It All
Simple As This
Ballad of Mr Jones
Song About Love
Me & You
What Doesn’t Kill You
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)