Review: Jake Bugg at the Newcastle City Hall

With metal and rock gigs being our usual scene, and being relatively unfamiliar with his music, we were not sure what to expect from this genre-straddling 22-year-old from Nottingham. We were feeling slightly sceptical, but we went in with an open mind, and from the moment we walked in, we were surprised! Firstly, by the huge diversity of the audience – from hardcore merch wearing teenage fangirls, to middle aged men, to older couples dressed as if they were going to the theatre – and secondly, because the venue was entirely seated: there was no mosh pit!

Jake Bugg came on stage, and immediately launched into ‘On My One’, a dark, moody acoustic ballad from his latest album. This created a mysterious, brooding atmosphere – his voice filled the space well, demonstrating his strong vocal capabilities. However, he lacked a stage presence, standing still with his eyes shut, and appeared lost on the large stage. At this point, we felt his performance would be much better suited to a smaller, more intimate venue. Despite this, he is clearly an accomplished musician, as demonstrated by his perfect guitar playing in the fun, neo-folk hit ‘Strange Creatures’ – a cool and collected performance for someone so young! Although, he was perhaps let down slightly by the acoustics, and the apparent power-struggle between his voice and the very loud guitar.

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After belting out a few acoustic hits, he was joined by his backing band for his single ‘Two Fingers’ – a clear fan favourite, as the energy in the room immediately picked up as the crowd got to their feet with an excited buzz. With the added support of his band, Jake also began to loosen up a bit, and began to look as if he was enjoying himself at this point – he actually opened his eyes! Despite being new to Jake Bugg’s music, we couldn’t resist joining in with the crowd and jamming along to songs such as the energetic indie hits ‘Bitter Salt’ and ‘Gimme The Love’.

The range of genres explored were as diverse as the crowd present: from fast-paced electric rock with effortless guitar solos one minute, to traditional country/folk tunes the next , to slow, emotional acoustic songs. This gave the gig a bit of a disjointed feel. At times, the crowd were bobbing up and down awkwardly during the performance, unsure of how to respond to the sudden change in tempo. However, we really enjoyed this varied mix of styles – it showed how versatile Jake Bugg’s talent is, as well as giving the gig an unpredictable but exciting feel: we never knew what to expect next!

Our personal highlight of the gig was the beautifully powerful ‘Broken,’ an emotional acoustic ballad which brought a tear to our eyes. Jake’s performance was very captivating at this point and a wonderful atmosphere was created as the crowd sang along in heart-felt unison. ‘Lightning Bolt,’ perhaps his most well-known song, was an upbeat conclusion to a fantastic gig, and was very popular with the audience as the crowd roared in appreciation. Jake, however, remained very humble until the end, continuously thanking the audience for being there throughout, and nonchalantly leaving the stage with his parting remark to the crowd being “you can go and enjoy your Saturday night now!”

Overall, we were very pleasantly surprised, and thoroughly enjoyed Jake Bugg – despite it being different to our typical style of music, we had an absolutely fantastic time. The atmosphere was excellent throughout, and his performance showed unique and unusual talent. This gig has totally changed our outlook on Jake Bugg and his genres of music, and we haven’t stopped listening to him since!

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