Entertainment Music

Friday 15 December 2017

rock

ed power

jake bugg

olympia, dublin

There are so many contradictions in Jake Bugg's story it's difficult to know where to start. Raised in an impoverished Nottingham suburb, the 19 year old's biggest influences are Americana touchstones such as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie; notoriously grumpy in interviews he has nonetheless embraced the gaudier side of success, briefly dating a supermodel and serving as strutting billboard for a variety of fashionable British labels ("5 Ways To Dress Like Jake Bugg" swooned a recent headline in TopShop's official magazine).

Ten days before the release of his second album, Shangri- La, there is no mistaking which Jake Bugg is in the house. In plain back T-shirt and sensible jeans he is stoic beyond his years, exchanging just a sentence or two with an audience that, in the first five rows at least, seems exclusively comprised of hyperventilating young ladies.

Whatever star presence led Mercury Records to sign him while still at school is absent – he exudes the surly shyness of the sink estate teenager who understands he will never catch a break in life.

Happily, effusiveness is in plentiful supply in his music. Featuring a mop-top shaking turn from Bugg, 'Seen It All' is a storming skiffle-blues workout; during the busy rockabilly pastiche of 'Two Fingers' and 'Slumville Sunrise' the singer has an opportunity to play off his bassist and drummer and appears to be almost enjoying himself.

Surprises are at a premium – perhaps the largest curveball is the "Jake-y Bugg, Jake-y Bugg" terrace chant from the back of the room.

With a record on the way, Bugg does press his luck by chucking in half a dozen new songs, recorded during a fortnight brainstorming session with Beastie Boys/ Chili Peppers producer Rick Rubin in Malibu ("Thanks for listening," he murmurs, sensing he might have tested the crowd's patience).

Shangri La may have been assembled under aching blue California skies but Bugg can't quite leave the rainy England behind. 'Messed Up Kids' is drizzle-flecked and dour; 'Pine Trees' trembles with the sort of open-eyed yearning that can only be accessed by an adolescent for whom life was until recently mostly glum and uneventful.

An encore tilt at Neil Young's 'Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)' introduces some edge. However, it's a rare example of risk taking in an evening of tremendous cosiness.

Bugg's already a star but if he wishes to broaden his fanbase beyond screaming teenagers he's going to have to apply a little dazzle. He could start by venturing a smile now and then.

Irish Independent

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