Jake Bugg is no longer the new kid on the block. In October, it will be eight years since he burst on the scene with his debut album, an eponymous release that earmarked him as the current generation’s answer to Bob Dylan.
He hasn’t quite reached the heights that were expected of him, yet the healthy nature of the crowd at the 2,350-capacity venue in Sheffield provided evidence that the 26 year old is in no danger of fading into irrelevance.
First and foremost, his voice is pitch-perfect live. It perfectly provided the bite for his snarly and honest numbers from the first two albums, which formed the core of the setlist.
The aforementioned running order, however, was confusing. Bugg lets his songs do the talking on stage yet was forced to constantly inform the crowd that he was transitioning into slower ballads and then back into the livelier anthems. One particular sequence saw him move from the upbeat crowd favourite ‘Lighting Bolt’ into the sombre ‘Broken’, and then into the zippy ‘Taste It’. The persistent pace-changes took the sting out of the crowd on more than one occasion, which one dedicated section for ballads would perhaps have prevented.
Regardless, he captivated a crowd that in reassuring fashion for Bugg, lapped up his latest release ‘Kiss Like The Sun’. The bluesy number was a highlight and served as a reminder that the singer-songwriter hasn’t abandoned the indie-folk sound that handed him his breakthrough.
It was his debut album that catapulted Bugg into the spotlight, yet the more mature sounds of the follow-up, ‘Shangri La’, stand out in the set. Sharper and snappier anthems such as ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘There’s A Beast And We All Feed It’ are tailor-made for live performances and when delivered without flaw like he is capable of, are a pleasure to hear.
Unreleased tracks ‘Scene’ and ‘Habit’ featured and provided an insight into the next step for Bugg. After an unsuccessful experiment with dance-tinged rock on his third album and planting his feet in the country camp for number four, he seems to be ready to return to his roots.
He sounds his best when he does so, and it certainly showed when he visited Sheffield.
Image Credit: Sarah Piantadosi