Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome – Review

Touring off the back of a newly released single, it was clear to see Jake was itching to get back on the road again. Playing at the Brighton Dome on the very first night of his extensive UK tour on March 3rd, the 26-year old singer and songwriter was very enthusiastic to play a variety of his indie folk-rock tunes from his much beloved discography.

Supporting Bugg was ONR, an energetic indie/electro solo artist from Scotland. The artist, clad in black and white, bounded back and forth across the stage as he tried to squeeze some enthusiasm out of the crowd. There wasn’t much of an audience in the stands at this stage of the night, only around 50 people, but ONR seemed grateful for them, nonetheless.

A pumping rhythm section accompanied a fuzzy driving synth melody that started with soft verses and led into ethereal choruses. ONR’s chord progressions and melodies were perhaps a little predictable, but they were certainly catchy. He has an ambient Killers meets Coldplay sound injected with a bit more vigour, but slightly less imagination.

Then, the headline act. It was a full house now, and anticipation was filling the air. The Brighton Dome was full of excitement as Jake Bugg walked onto centre stage with his supporting band behind him. The young artist has been paving his way onto the music scene for a while now, and it was clear to see he had adopted a real cult following of fans amid the screams that followed his footsteps.

Brighton Dome being a small, yet classy and sophisticated venue made for a very intimate experience. The people in the stands could practically touch the stage, and even the seats on the floor above were no more than about 20 metres away from Jake at any given moment.

The country blues rocker played a selection of songs that couldn’t really be bashed, opening with a couple of new songs like ‘Rabbit Hole’ and his latest single ‘Kiss Like The Sun’, which he began with a very upbeat attitude. Clearly, he was amped for the first night of the tour. He then ripped out some other classics like ‘Lightning Bolt’ and ‘Two Fingers’ which closed the set and were played to intoxicating effect, sending the crowd into hysterics.

However, he kept flipping between electric and acoustic guitar every couple of songs, which slowed the pace of the performance right down. Even after getting the crowd riled up with his explosive entrance, he played ‘Broken’, and ‘A Song About Love’ which are both slow and emotional acoustic tracks, before picking up the electric guitar again and reverting to his typical folk-rock anthems. It was confusing, and I feel there was a lot of wasted energy and momentum because of it.

Bugg’s guitar tones on the other hand were phenomenal, his black and white Fender Stratocaster cut through the mix with echoey and distorted tones that reverberated around the room. His bright yellow Fender Telecaster did much of the same, only with slightly heavier tones. He even included some complex and face-melting guitar solos in there and seemed to play them effortlessly.

Jake Bugg has been compared to Bob Dylan in the past, which judging by his records, is a pretty fair comparison. He shares much of Dylan’s jangly folk-rock sound as well as a resonating, fully developed vocal tone with a heap of vibrato that defines his best work.

About halfway through the set an adoring fan shouts ‘Country song!’, referring to one of the ballads on his self-titled debut album that released in 2012. Jake then laughed and replied saying “Well it’s not on the set-list, but how about I play it anyway. Help me out with the lyrics since it’s been a while.”

Bugg’s stage presence however was far more laid-back than I expected. Perhaps it was a nod to his more reserved personality, but the performer didn’t quite match the intensity of is music – nor did his band. He seemed quite wooden on stage, and as the crowd pushed closer to the barrier singing every word of ‘Slide’, he merely acknowledged them with a quick smirk before he got straight back to strumming. He almost seemed slightly intimidated.

Ultimately, the energy of the room was electrifying. Jake played his last song ‘Two Fingers’ and strolled off stage with no encore required, despite fans begging for one. Whether the audience were moshing to high-powered guitar licks or gently swaying to a soulful and heart-felt ballad, the artist certainly knows how to put on a good show.

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