Live Report: Jake Bugg – Royal Albert Hall, London

A triumphant night from the songwriter...

A little over a decade ago Jake Bugg’s self-titled debut hit the number one spot in the UK Charts, and subsequently the singer songwriter went on to play some of the world’s iconic music venues, touring and engaging with some of its heavyweights, rightly making the most of the opportunities to see the world and play to a wide range of audiences.

Rock, blues, folk, country and Bossa nova are just some of the genres he has trialled and tested over the years, as the virtuoso guitarist shows an ongoing determination to explore genre in general terms, experimenting with other forms of music that broadly speaking are not associated with the confines of indie music. It has been a distinct journey for the Clifton bred artist, and the last ten years only seem to apply value to his body of work. 

The headliner at Thursday night’s Teenager Cancer Trust show, Jake Bugg’s set aims to mark the recent ten year anniversary of his debut album, as the twenty something songs are fully realised on acoustic and electric guitars. There is a notable change in vibe from the fine acoustic renditions in some contrast with the louder, more brash versions, essentially stirring a rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere.

It’s an artistic complexity that underpins the set rather splendidly. Starting out with a string of acoustic numbers, the blues and country sounds of ‘Strange Creatures’ and ‘Southern Rain’ are heard. Warm, soothing imagery is created, and it feels smooth and seamless. The delivery of the reflective, introspective ‘Note To Self’ is a special moment. 

The presence of a full band gives stability and a sense of permanence, it’s togetherness of the sort that only exists between musicians who have played together for a long period of time. This all feeds into the idea of genuinely accomplishing something bigger. 

This idea is strengthened further when a switch to faster songs such as ‘Trouble Town’ is facilitated. The song also happens to be the theme to BBC iPlayer success story Happy Valley, and energetic moments like the self-biographical ‘Two Fingers’ and big hit ‘Lightning Bolt’ follow. It literally is all guns blazing, with cheering and chanting persisting throughout. 

Elsewhere in the set, the melancholy ‘Broken’ comprises a stunning four minutes of introspection and sadness, but as numerous phones are adapted to torch mode, it also becomes a sole shared moment.  

Guitar solos have become rare occurrences at shows, but luckily the star does not seem to care. Taking real pride in this art, he is only happy to engage, expertly supplying the goods, much to the joy of the spectators. 

The vibrantly eclectic ‘All I Need’ offers a celebratory finale to what has been a unique display of big songs performed in a beautiful setting for an outstanding cause. Joined on stage by The Flames choir and singer Joy Farrukh, Jake Bugg wraps things up in style to end the concert on a high – wonderfully upbeat – note.    

Words: Susan Hansen

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