Who would have thought that in 2013, a sold-out crowd of mostly kids would be going wild for a 19-year-old singer-songwriter who sounds, at times, an awful lot like Lonnie Donegan? Or, at other times, like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan or even (in what counts as radically modern) The Las? Yet they are: to borrow one of Jake Bugg’s own song titles, now I’ve Seen It All.
Jake Bugg, Academy, Glasgow
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Bugg doesn’t go in much for chat or, indeed, movement, staying rooted in front of a simple microphone to deliver his songs deadpan. Yet it’s a pacy set all the same, beginning with brisk skiffle, ending in fierce rockabilly and hitting indie and country along the way.
His forthcoming, Rick Rubin-produced album Shangri La, seems to have pushed him into harder, rockier territory that’s less immediately accessible than his Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut material. But in the ballad Song About Love, Storm Passes Away and encore Broken, he reveals an aching romantic sensibility which combines sweetness with stadium-friendly singalongs.
With all these disparate styles and influences going on, and his hipster-cool reluctance to engage with the audience, Bugg sometimes seems to be still lurching about in search of an identity.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: the overall impression is of a young performer with more ideas than most, trying out personas and positions to see what fits, and refreshingly willing to experiment. The inspiration may be retro, but the attitude is intriguingly forward-looking.