What must it be like, to be just 23 years old, with four albums already under your belt and performing sold-out shows at the London Palladium? The man who knows the answer to all of the above is Jake Bugg.
I’m a big fan of his and was expecting a good night – and JB didn’t disappoint. Arriving alone on the stage, he gave us a cheery wave and launched straight into ‘How Soon the Dawn’, from his new album ‘Hearts that Strain’. “Thank you all for coming; it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m going to perform a mix of old and new songs”, he announced, to cheers. Phew. I like the new album, but it’s always a let-down when an artist refuses to play any of their back catalogue. “This is ‘Saffron’”, he announced bashfully – to further cheers.
From there, you could see JB visibly relaxing, and ‘Strange Creatures’ came next, upping the level of drama. And then: “This next tune is an old song – and a slow one: ‘Slide’”. Bliss. That’s one of my favourite-ever JB songs. A quick return to the new album, with ‘Indigo Blue’, and then we were back on familiar ground with ‘Something as Simple as This’ – another favourite of mine, and of everyone else too, judging by the audience’s reaction.
“Let’s move the tempo up!” suggested JB – and ‘Taste It’ and ‘Bigger Lover’ followed. You can’t beat the old tunes, though – and the boy from Nottingham looked as though he was enjoying himself as much as us during ‘Trouble Town’, his first-ever single. Sticking with the back catalogue JB, who turns 24 in two days’ time, performed a haunting version of ‘Country Song’ before admitting: “It’s always scary, playing in London – and I was really nervous, earlier today. Not as nervous as I was when I did ‘Soccer AM’ a few days ago, mind you!”
We were nearing the end of the evening, now and after ‘Me and You’ from his second album, ‘Shangri La’, JB had a confession for us: “I just play music because I like it – I never actually thought I’d play it in front of people”. He was being modest, of course – this is one seriously talented musician & performer and it would be a travesty if he hadn’t been successful. His first album, on its own, is a classic – and I was so glad that he also played ‘Broken’ and ‘Seen It All’ – they are songs that stand the test of time. Mind you, so will ‘Waiting’, which he performed alone tonight but on which he duets with Noah Cyrus on the new album. Proper, lump-in-your-throat stuff.
Following a cracking version of ‘Two Fingers’, the show came to a sparkling end with ‘Lightning Bolt’ (what else?). Another cheery wave – and JB disappeared into the night. He’s a man of few words – but quite honestly, he doesn’t need them. Those songs, his trusty guitar and his memorably mournful voice are quite enough.