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Jake Bugg, O2 Apollo: Reviewed

The Nottingham native impresses on his first night of three at the O2 Apollo.

Written by . Published on November 10th 2013.

Jake Bugg, O2 Apollo: Reviewed

THE NINETEEN year old singer/songwriter with the world at his feet, an impressive number one debut album under his belt, a tidal wave of devotees, a brief celebrity romance with everywhere-model Cara Delevingne and is fast becoming a household name in the UK and America.

Taking influence from country legend Roy 'Big O' Orbison, Bugg is statuesque in his delivery, there are no gimmicks or stage antics, the focus is unwaveringly on the music and lyrics.

And no, it's not perpetually topless Canadian cretin Justin Bieber, Nottingham-born Jake Bugg is the man, or teenager, to look out for these days and his latest live performances are a compelling case to believe the hype.

His 2012 debut album was a refreshing mix of soulful country inspired compositions infused with lively guitar riffs coupled with the nonchalant swagger of a Gallagher.

Not Justin BieberNot Justin Bieber

Inspired by Don McLean, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and of course, Oasis, to name but a few, Bugg seems to have harnessed a niche in the market by which he has done the impossible of appealing to the wider mainstream, screaming girls included, while also maintaining that dogged Indie following. His disciples characterised by head-to-toe Fred Perry and a tendency to launch pints around the crowd like wet grenades.

With 'difficult second album', The Shangri La (released 18 November), Bugg has commenced an extensive promotional tour of the UK and US, including three dates at the Manchester Apollo this month alone.

Bugg’s records are an intriguing mix of old and new, the album recordings contain that grainy gramophone touch while the lyrics spin a modern tale of parties, drugs and lost love. Regurgitated live these soulful ballads are just as powerful, Bugg’s voice a hauntingly glorious throwback to American blues and soul.

Taking influence from country legend Roy 'Big O' Orbison, Bugg is statuesque in his delivery, there are no gimmicks or stage antics, the focus is unwaveringly on the music and lyrics.

In concert Bugg has the desirable ability to bring out the best in each track, the ballads Simple As This and Broken, which induced a masterful crowd sing-along, are poignant and heartfelt. Desperately catchy anthems like Two Fingers and Taste It are cranked up to eleven with energetic, loud renditions that stand out stronger than anything on record.

Jake Bugg: Man of few wordsJake Bugg: Man of few words

His new material fitted in seamlessly sound wise but the audience reaction was mixed as the album has not yet been released, confirmed by the light natter around the venue during them.

The new work he did showcase showed an expansion out of his country comfort zone with Messed Up Kids delivered with such pace one wonders how Bugg is still breathing after two minutes, elsewhere lead album track What Doesn’t Kill You was a thrashing two minute burst of guitar that could have been lifted straight out of the 1976s three cord wonder era.

At times the country and western theme is overplayed, perhaps even karaokeish as seen on the Country Road sounding Slumville Sunrise. Any fears of tackiness or a lack of authenticity were extinguished by a superb cover of his hero Neil Youngs’ My My, Hey Hey.

Ending on the heavily overplayed (granted that is hardly his fault) Lightning Bolt seemed a slight cop out but the trusty crowd pleaser was belted out at 100 miles an hour much like the majority of the performance: short, sharp and to the point. Typical of Bugg himself.

Notoriously apathetic and 'stoney' in interviews, Bugg was unsurprisingly short on speeches during his hour and a half set. The times he did muster up the odd thank you or song introduction it was mumbled as if he'd been rumbled by a mate’s parents for being a bad influence. A teenager he remains, for now. Perhaps age will grant more presence.

Juggling between acoustic, country tales and frantic indie/punk two minute explosions is like being between the proverbial rock and a hard place, just ask Bob Dylan about his 1966 concert at the Free Trade Hall.

But Bugg manages it with supreme cool, at least on the surface. Balancing out his set so that the tempo dips up and down providing respite and raw power in equal measure, confirming Bugg as one of the brightest talents around - We've caught the Bugg.

Jake Bugg is playing the Manchester O2 Apollo again on November 13. Tickets here.

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