Bitten by the Jake Bugg

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Review: Jake Bugg, O2 Academy, Newcastle

TO say I felt privileged to be at Jake Bugg’s intimate gig in Newcastle’s 02 Academy 2 is an understatement.

The small venue was packed with fans eager to see the 18 year-old lad from Clifton, in Nottingham, perform tracks from his self-titled chart-topping debut album.

Cheers roared as he coolly took to the stage with backing bassist and drummer, dressed in dark jeans and a navy polo T-shirt – he looked like a typical teenager.

However, there is nothing average about this talented troubadour – who pens 60s-inspired folk, country and blues songs with the maturity far beyond his age.

Coyly mumbling a brief hello, he picked up his acoustic guitar and strummed his way through feel-good track Kentucky and Love Me The Way You Do, from the Taste It EP.

There were numerous guitar changes throughout as he switched from acoustic to electric.

It was the infectious Trouble Town, the lead single from his debut album, that really got everyone singing along, followed by the equally compelling Seen In All.

Slowing things down the lively crowd took a while to settle as he performed Ballad Of Mr Jones before he plucked away on his acoustic guitar and sang the heartfelt ballad, Someone Told Me.

He was a true delight to watch as he continued with Note To Self, Simple As This – one of my personal favourites and Slide.

Not one to banter with the crowd, he let his music do the talking.

One thing different about his stage presence is that he doesn’t offer any fleeting acknowledgements to fans, instead, as I discovered, he shares a piercing stare.

More than once he locked eyes with me, which admittedly was a little intimidating as he held my gaze while I sang back his lyrics, all the while hoping not to mess them up.

Then nonchalantly he moved his gaze onto his next target. It was a bizarre but brilliant moment.

Contrasting his delicate folk songs with indie-rock tunes showcased two sides to this rising star.

Foot-tapping numbers Two Fingers, Taste It and Lightning Bolt were real crowd pleasers. Leaving fans wanting more, he briefly left the stage before returning with the delicate Don McLean-esque Country Song and Greenman.

Soaking in the show I couldn’t help but wonder if I will ever get to see him again in such a personal setting?

It’s safe to say I have been bitten by the “Bugg”’.

Support came from piano man Tom Odell and female-fronted band Findlay.

* Jake Bugg returns to Newcastle on February 5, to play an already sold-out show in the 02 Academy’s main room. For more dates visit www.jakebugg.com

Marie Westmorland