By John Curley
Nottingham, England native Jake Bugg has built quite an impressive musical résumé for a 22 year old. Already on his third album (On My One, which was released earlier this year), Bugg brought his current tour to New York City’s Terminal 5 on Tuesday, September 27th. And he delivered a show that had the crowd singing along and cheering throughout.
The concert began with a fine 35-minute set from Cambridge, England-based quartet Syd Arthur. The band is comprised of the Magill brothers Liam (lead vocals, guitar), Joel (bass, vocals), and Josh (drums) as well as Raven Bush (keyboards, guitar, violin, and mandolin). Bush is the nephew of the British singer-songwriter Kate Bush. The band’s fourth album, Apricity, is due to be released on October 21st. They’ve got a great sound, and they received a very enthusiastic response from the audience.
Bugg opened his headline set with a six-song solo acoustic segment. It was a very effective start to his performance. First up was "On My One," the title track to his latest album, which got a big hand from the crowd. Other highlights of the acoustic segment included: “Me And You,” which had the audience singing along with every word at the top of their voices; “Love Me The Way You Do,” a country-sounding song that had something of a Hank Williams feel to it; and “All That,” another countrified song that is about trying to maintain relationships while on the road.
When the show’s acoustic section concluded, Bugg was joined onstage by his talented backing band, which includes Tom Robertson (bass) and Jack Atherton (drums). They were augmented by a keyboard player. They plunged right into a rip-roaring version of “Two Fingers” that featured Bugg playing Stratocaster had many in the crowd dancing and singing along. They followed that up with “Bitter Salt,” an excellent, hard-charging rock song. The audience was really into it, with many singing along. “Seen It All” was a good showcase for the band, particularly Atherton on drums. “Love, Hope And Misery” and “Messed Up Kids” both received big reactions from the audience.
“Never Wanna Dance” highlighted Bugg’s musicianship, as the guitar break on Telecaster showed off his chops. There was a very effective use of the stage lights during the song, as they slowly spun around and shined out into and above the crowd. It provided a trippy effect. And the band was very tight on “Livin’ Up Country,’ which also featured Bugg on Telecaster.
The rockabilly roar of “Trouble Town” was one of the big highlights of the show. The bass and drums pounded, which drew quite a reaction from the charged-up crowd. The rockabilly sound continued on both “Put Out The Fire” and “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It,” and both songs received roars from the audience.
The crowd seemed to gain energy as the show went on, and Bugg and his band appeared to be feeding off of that energy to drive the songs home. “Taste It,” Slumville Sunrise,” “Simple Pleasures,’ and “Gimme The Love” all featured tight playing by the band and were greeted with big cheers from the audience. “Simple Pleasures” starts out as a moody, melancholy piece and rocks out toward the end. During “Gimme That Love,” lights swirled around the stage to great effect, increasing the intensity of the song.
Prior to the performance of “Broken,” the band left the stage so that Bugg could perform the song solo on acoustic guitar. The crowd listened intently and then sang along with Bugg toward the end of the song. And the band returned for the final number of the night, a tight version of “Lightning Bolt,” with featured nice guitar work by Bugg along with Atherton’s driving drums. It was the perfect ending to what had been a memorable show.
A versatile talent, Bugg included snatches of alt-rock, hard rock, country, country rock, and rockabilly in his set. A friend of mine that also attended the show compared Bugg to a young Elvis Costello. The comparison is accurate because, in addition to his considerable music chops, Bugg also writes compelling lyrics. It will be interesting to see where his career goes from here.
Bugg’s tour of the United States ends on Thursday, September 29th with a show in Washington, DC. Following an October 3rd show in Mexico City, he heads back to his native UK for a series of shows that begin on October 18th in Manchester. Full tour dates can be found at http://jakebugg.com/gigs/.
Jake Bugg’s setlist was as follows:
Solo acoustic set:
On My One
Me And You
The Love We’re Hoping For
Love Me The Way You Do
Main set with full band:
Seen It All
Love, Hope And Misery
Messed Up Kids
Never Wanna Dance
Livin’ Up Country
Put Out The Fire
There’s A Beast And We All Feed It
Gimme The Love
Broken (solo and acoustic)