On his one, Jake Bugg arrived on stage armed only with his acoustic guitar. It seems the 22-year-old is still on a mission to demonstrate he can stand on his own two feet. He opens the set with the title-track from his latest album which was written and impressively produced almost singlehandedly. Naturally the northern crowd lapped up the line: “I’m just a poor boy from Nottingham’.
Four tracks later the band join him on stage and break into the folk hit ‘Two Fingers’ from the debut. Expectedly many crowd members launch there two fingers in the air in unity with the lyrics. Keeping chit-chat to the minimum Bugg paces through a lot of his newer material, but thanks the audience, for listening to it, seemingly acknowledging their endurance for his new songs.
Mid-set Bugg delves into songs from ‘Shangri-la’ the more rock oriented sophomore album. There is no theatrics, just Bugg, his guitar and a standard light display. The delivery is well executed but there is an emptiness, a feeling of lethargy to Bugg at times, and this is resonated in the motionless crowd’s behaviour.
Finishing his last drink, Bugg states, “I’m already drunk” before playing the stunningly delicate ‘Broken’. This is where the Nottingham musician will always shine brightest; when all is stripped back. The faint lights focus on him and his guitar and for a moment the crowd are captivated, in a refreshing silence, rather than an awkward quietness. It was all composed, all serine. Up goes a man on some drunk shoulders. Verbal abuse is bellowed from behind. A cup hurtles at the man’s head. Mr drunk-shoulders marches over with the man still mounted, like some kind of transformer. A fight ensues. Seemingly the whole of the O2 watch the debacle, all while Jake Bugg plays his best performance of the night.
By concluding the set with ‘Lightning Bolt’; Bugg quenched the thirst of those so desperate to hear the thunderous folk track. He certainly knows what his fans want and he is apt at delivering it. Following his musical progression however he has amassed a plethora of audience types, and they all yearn for disparate sounds.
Words by Will Fisher. Photo by Navya Hebbar.