Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Jake Bugg at Metropolis | Review


  Jake Bugg  |  Metropolis


    Fairly new to the tunes of Jake Bugg, I step into Metropolis with no precedent, no expectations. Who is it, exactly, that listens to this guy?
Everyone, or so it seems by glancing at the crowd.

    Bugg is a ’94 baby, in the last of his teenage years, and so there are plenty of sixteen-year-old girls who look like it’s their first real concert. There are also their male counterparts, eighteen-year-olds with moppy hair and equally floppy posture. Yet for every shaggy-haired guy, there is one who is balding, sipping a beer with a group of fellow middle-aged folk. Of course, as with any show with a singer-songwriter, there are plenty of couples, glued at the hip. Lots of students. And since this is Montreal, after all, there are a fair number of those lovingly referred to as (the by now somewhat antiquated term) hipsters (but you know what I mean). All in all, it’s a pretty diversified group. A good sample set for a study. Or a great audience for the Bugg.

    If the crowd is riled up – evidenced by the shrieks of excitement and leaping as Bugg takes the stage – Bugg is so calm he almost looks sedated. Launching into the lively opener “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It,” which makes you immediately want to get up and do a lil’ jig, Bugg stands there stoically. Well, maybe not even stoically, just like he couldn’t be bothered. He doesn’t dance. He doesn’t jump around. He just stands there and plays, adding in an occasional saunter to the front of the stage, but he doesn’t even reach out his hand for a high five before ambling back to the microphone.

    It’s surprising, but it’s not bad. The whole set up is pretty minimal. He wears a black t-shirt and jeans, the stage backdrop is a simple panel with his name, and there isn’t an overload of flashing lights. He’s what the newspapers would call a “young, up-and-comin’ artist,” but he doesn’t come prepackaged with the whole flashy ensemble, unlike a Disney star belting out radio singles. All he needs is his voice and his guitar to make the audience crazy. 

    Deservedly so. Bugg’s voice is its own creature – something you might not like if you’re averse to anything that’s not purely melodic and dripping with honey. It’s raw, a bit twangy, but not hoarse. Every note is sung at full intensity. He puts so much into his voice you wonder how he has anything left for the next song. Bugg wails away, then steers through furiously fast tongue-twister-like sentences. He has some slower songs, the sort that encourage singing along and the kind that are upbeat in a leisurely, dawdling way. But the numbers that really impress are the ones so fast that you can’t keep track of the words, the ones where his fingers do a precise fumble across the guitar strings and the energy level in the room instantly doubles.

    “Slumville Sunrise,” is one such song that just doesn’t stop. “This place is just not for me / I say it all the tiiiiime,” Bugg drawls, before launching into the chorus with every ounce of lung power. “What Doesn’t Kill You” is another memorable tune, as is the hit “Lightning Bolt.” The lyrics are pretty basic, but who said that was a bad thing? They work. Mysterious, metaphorical lyrics often end up murky, anyway. Bugg’s slower number’s aren’t bad either, as “Broken” shows. The stage lights radiate out as he wails “Woooaaaahh,” and it’s a little cheesy, but nonetheless still a great moment.

    Capping off the evening, another nice surprise is Bugg’s Cover of Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey.” Covers can be hit or miss at shows, but when it’s a hit… oh man, is it a hit. As Young sings, “Rock ‘n’ roll can never die.”

    And Bugg nails it.
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