When Jake Bugg first came to public attention at the age of 18, he received acclaim from mainstream audiences and critics alike- with comparisons being drawn between himself and the likes of Bob Dylan and just about every other member of the singer-songwriter pantheon.
His self-titled debut album offered honest, and observative insights from his hometown of Nottingham, with world-weary tracks and a level of nostalgic reflection that sounded far too evolved to have spawned from such a young musician.
After the excitement from for the first album dwindled, however, Jake’s sophomore album- Shangri La– didn’t quite retain the same level of attention, and the trend only continued for his third effort, On My One.
The Nottingham singer was still consistently touring and making a career for himself, albeit without cashing the artistic or cultural cheques that the first album had written. This left Bugg hovering around the mid-table of the music circuit with neither the glory of capitalising upon his potential, nor the romanticism of disappearing entirely.
So here we are in 2018, five years after Jake Bugg entered the scene with so much promise, and it seems a little bizarre that the 23-year-old should be headlining an acoustic show in the London Palladium. This is a theatre, rather than a gig venue- and an all-seated one at that.
This seems to be a bold move from his part, as a solitary microphone stand, coupled with a stool, vulnerably occupies the space upon a small square carpet, which is drowned by the enormity of the grand venue.
As Jake Bugg makes the long walk from stage-side to his stool, the crowd clap to welcome the singer. This isn’t a rowdy, gig venue clap, however- fuelled by vodka Red Bulls and A-Level students… This is a dignified London-Palladium clap, fuelled by expectancy and critical music fans who have had to pay for babysitters. This unfamiliar tone only adds to metaphorical cavern between the performer and the crowd- as if we were all judging a student’s guitar recital.
The set commences with a rendition of ‘How Soon the Dawn’, from Bugg’s 2017 album Hearts The Strain, followed by ‘Saffron’ and before long, the vast room is filled with a great deal more warmth.
The singer takes advantage of a break between songs to take a sip from his drink, explaining; “I’ll have this because you’re all quiet and it makes me nervous.”
As Jake Bugg’s set rolled on, with the accompaniment of more Gin & Tonics from stage-side, the singer and audience alike visibly loosen up and the event is draped in a more causal aura. Many tracks from the debut album, such as ‘Simple as This’ and ‘Troubled Town’ have aged gracefully, seemingly growing into the disenchanted style in which they were originally written.
Between a varied setlist of old and new tracks, the Nottingham performer continues to chat with the audience, with a mixture of modest gratitude and a surprising level of charisma. This is manifested at it’s best when he tells the crowd that he is bored of playing Jake Bugg songs, before taking requests and agreeing to cover Neil Young’s 1972 single ‘Old Man’.
Towards the end of the evening, the atmosphere has a far more familiar, gig-like quality and you could hardly believe that this venue has hosted such regal events as the Royal Variety Performance. To end the set, Bugg acknowledges one more request; “‘Lightning Strike’? Yeah, we’ll play that one shall we”, before performing his 2012 hit ‘Lightning Bolt’.
As the singer embarks on the long walk off stage, he is met with a standing ovation and the grand scale of the Palladium is once again noticeable. When reviewing the great acts that have appeared in this venue; from Frank Sinatra & Ella Fitzgerald, to Don McLean & John Cooper Clarke, It is almost a little surreal to consider that this performer is still in his early twenties- especially when his tracks have already garnered such a touching sense of sentimental reflection.
Jake Bugg isn’t the fashionable poster boy of young British music that he was once destined to be, but after this moving and authoritative performance, it seems that he could be something a great deal less disposable; a singer-songwriter with a long career ahead of him, who can hold an audience with honesty and talent.