The crowd here at Manchester’s Ritz is a right old mix – there are your 17-year-old girls obviously (and no shortage of 17-year-old boys, I have to say) but also folk old enough to be Jake Bugg‘s grandparents. It’s testament to the maturity of his songwriting and performance that he can tread this fine line so surely. He manages to enjoy broad appeal and retain credibility at the same time – no mean feat. He’s a little surly onstage – he puts this down to nerves. Fair enough. However, his playing tonight is wholly nerveless and belies his age.
Playing in a three-piece with just guitar, bass and drums, there are no hiding places. But Bugg is a cracking player, often throwing out blistering solos staring straight out at the crowd, and the trio makes a monumental sound.
Rockabilly is the main influence on show here, and peppers his second album Shangri-La. In opener There’s a Beast and We All Feed It he sets his stall out early, and doesn’t let up. The crowd go absolutely ape for Messed Up Kids, a cracking wee rocker with more than a hint of Squeeze about it.
There are quieter moments (the crowd takes on some of the vocal responsibilities during a heartbreaking version of Broken), and his already tuneful voice is now maturing into a blend of Lee Mavers from The La’s (and occasionally Mavers’ bandmate John Power – I think it’s something to do with the exaggerated rounded vowel sounds and appealingly nasal quality) and a young Dylan. Boy, he must get tired of THAT comparison. It’s inescapable, mind you.
By the time he finishes with the inevitable Lightning Bolt, the grumpy wee troubadour has owned The Ritz. It’ll be the Arena next for this kid.
Review and images by Chris Payne
Where: The Ritz, Manchester
When: February 23, 2014
More info: http://mamacolive.com/theritz/, http://jakebugg.com/