RIGHT, let’s get this out of the way early.
I can’t get on with The 1975. Yes, they’re local lads from Wilmslow but that shouldn't sway reasoned judgement. I find them irritating. I don’t get it. It’s like emo warmed up, or slightly tinkered (turns out that a couple of years back they were actually an emo band, until they realised everyone thought it was shit).
Excitable lot these Buggerines. They feel part of something. Part of an authentic, young and energised 'real' music movement, an up-yours to the regurged arse-out 'manufactured' Mail Online lot
Every lyric lead singer Matthew Healy (son of Tim) bleets out sounds, in a fashion, like he’s fornicating. But struggling with the whole process. On stage they’re trying to convey that poetically dark and ghostly back-lit monochrome romanticism that The xx have done so very well and reinvent some kind of pop-punk nostalgia felt for late 90s/early 00s bands like New Found Glory or Jimmy Eat World, but never achieve the mediocre heights of either.
It’s awkward, tired and recycled. Radio 1 one-song hype. And I don’t like the way their hair flaps about. But now I’m just being a git.
Still, looking at the half-arsed shuffling of the sold-out 'home' crowd packed into the O2 Apollo, I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed.
But it didn’t hugely matter because tonight was, for the most part, the Jake Bugg show (interview here) with a dose of Primal Scream thrown in to bring the average age of the night’s performers above that of legal consent. The opening performances came from Darlia and Josh Record, two artists I'm sure were great, had I got there in time to review them. Blame the White Lion on Liverpool Road, it's cosy this time of year.
Handed the Xfm Inspiration Award on the night (previous winners include The Strokes and The Clash), it seemed odd that Primal Scream, a band that are now in their fourth decade of making music, ten albums down, scores of hits, lauded veterans of the circuit with more past members than the Jimmy Saville fan club, were placed second fiddle to Jake Bugg. A 19-year-old from Nottingham that's been around about five minutes.
Still, when your star is high you’ve got to strike the iron and make hay while the suns hot, an all that.
And it would have been inconsistent for Xfm to not place Bugg in the headline slot, since every other song played on the radio station since he exploded form the blocks in late 2012 has been a song of his. This is perhaps unfair, every third song, followed by Arctic Monkeys. The other slot is up for grabs.
Primal Scream's opener, 2013, the most unoriginally named track to discuss the portrait of 'right now' Britain (they should have called it Royal Baby, or just Styles), from the band’s new and surprisingly fresh album, More Light (their best since 2000s XTRMNTR) sets the crowd off at walking pace. New stuff tends to have this effect. Bands know it. We know it. But if a band never played new stuff, where would we be? Pablo Honey, that’s where.
Not until guaranteed floor wobbler, Movin’ On Up, does the audience break out from their 1975 induced slumber. Hits like Rocks, Country Girland the culminating Loaded ensure Scream’s credentials as a bankable and top draw live act. Not that it was ever brought in to question.
Frontman Bobby Gillespie still maintains that characteristic brand of snake-hipped lackadaisical epicenity. A peacock of a frontman, he seems to carry a spot of the Dorians about him, never aging, continuing to resemble the trippy bastard lovechild of Mick Jagger and an Afghan Hound.
Regardless of Primal Scream’s reinvigorating vigor, it was clearly Jake Bugg's night.
It's been a whirlwind couple of years for the young buck… Bugg. Slung into the spotlight, chaos insued: chart-topping records, supermodel girlfriends, spats with the talent show lot, sharing stages with Noel Gallagher, Stone Roses and Morrissey, tireless worldwide touring, a second album recorded in Rick Rubin's (Jay-Z, Adele, Neil Diamond, everyone) Malibu studio and even a Graham Norton appearance sat on the sofa with Samuel L Jackson and Sandra Bullock. He couldn't have looked more uncomfortable in that one. Still, that's part of his 'lad-dun-gud' charm.
Despite the diffident demeanour, you do get the impression that the only place Bugg feels entirely comfortable is with a guitar on stage in front of a room full of people staring right at him. It's wonderfully paradoxical. Entering the stage with a refreshing lack of fanfare and his now trademark and Cash-like: “Hello, I’m Jake Bugg” (he’s also dressed entirely in black), there’s no gallivanting to be had here. His performances are built around the songs. Nothing more. He's uncapable of more.
Bugg opens the set as he opens his new album, Shangri La, with punchy two minute country-sciffle blast There’s A Beast And We All Feed It, unlike the preceding acts, Bugg whacked it straight into fifth and straight up the arse of the audience. And we were off.
Title tracks from the new album, What Doesn't Kill You and Slumville Sunrise bounced alongside the 'older stuff' (not so old 'older stuff'), Two Fingers, Lightning Bolt and Trouble Town and kept the audience phrenetically bopping around for the rest of the eve, launching every lyric back at the stage with double the fervor from which it left.
Excitable lot these Buggerines. They feel part of something. Part of an authentic, young and energised 'real' music movement, an up-yours to the regurged arse-out tattooed 'manufactured' Mail Online upstarts. For many, young Bugg is the remedy. In which case it may be better not to tell them a great number of Bugg's debut album tracks were written for him. Sshh.
A perfect example being the beautiful ballad Broken, exquisitely delivered on the night. It's a record so staggeringly gorgeous - amazingly only reaching no.44 in the UK charts - that it's impossible to imagine an eighteen year old writing it, unless of course he'd done a Robert Johnson and sold his soul to the devil in return for musical prowess.
Still, let's not take anything away from Bugg. This was an almost flawless performance. He is, although achingly unanimated, a fantastic and prodigious musician with a voice and delivery that far outweigh his years. Entrancing in his simplicity with an ability to find his way around a guitar that's unsurpassed by any other current performer of this age - that this reviewer knows of anyway.
But then I'm not a very good gig reviewer. I actually find gig reviews terribly tiresome. Look, they're either good, bad or ok. This one was mostly good. There you go. I'm surprised you've even made it this far. Most haven't. Now sod off and read something more important.
Follow @David8Blake on twitter.
Xfm's Winter Wonderland in support of War Child.
All photos by Andy Squire.
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