REVIEW: Jake Bugg @ HMV Institute, Dec 18th

Words by Ed King / Pics by Katie Foulkes

I want another drink; sitting warm and loquacious, in the Irish boozer next to the HMV Institute. We’re early, Jake Bugg has two support acts, and like standing up as soon as the airplane lands – I see no point queuing.

Besides, I’m absurdly eager to see Jake Bugg perform – since hearing his eponymous debut album in October, and have already had to postpone my excitement for over a month; 15 more minutes won’t hurt. I make an editorial decision, order a large Disaronno on the rocks and return to the radiator.

As we eventually pinch our way through the sellout crowd, Findlay – Universal’s precocious punk protege, runs through a list of musical genres ‘that are crap’. The crowd seems nonplussed, and I duck a low path to the bar; eventually finding service, and an inch of stairwell to settle on.

With the evening staggering behind time, Findlay stamps off stage; allowing a single sound technician to prepare all the main set instruments. Frustratingly, this continues; as drunken jackals chant ineloquent disdain, before the young singer songwriter from Nottingham finally arrives on stage. The chant turns to roar, the irritation to relief, and the 36days and 3hrs wait to an unstable foundation of beer and close quarters.

Opening with ‘Kentucky’, I’m immediately confused; a nasally high pitch pierces its way off the stage. This isn’t right, is it? Jake Bugg’s vocals are raw, ‘Dylan’ being the ubiquitous simile, but this seems unnerving; comic even. I shoot an ill informed look at the sound desk.

‘Love Me the Way You Do’ follows, with very little banter in between, and an almost bluegrass pentametre. It’s like a bad cover; and whilst I’m increasingly unsure as to what’s going on, the rest of the room is resolute and shouting, ‘Jake Bugg WE LOVE YOU.’

‘I’ve Seen It All’ creates a sea of karaoke; but the satirical lyrical charm of this excellent song doesn’t survive the assault. ‘Ballad of Mr Jones’ allows Jake Bugg to be alone on acoustic, before ‘Note to Self’ returns the full band fervour; and reciprocal, baying crowd.

Looking at the shoulder to shoulder below, feverishly drunk and enthralled (them not me), I start to feel… something. Is it ‘old’? Is it ‘out of place’? Is it ‘jealous’? I looked forward to tonight more than any gig this month, so why am I not getting what everyone else in the room is all too eager to shout?

I ask the guy next to me for context; he takes a minute, then says, ‘its like if The Coral went solo’. I look at my notes – ‘…like a hoedown with George Formby and Kermit the Frog’. Perhaps he should be writing this review.

‘Slide’ brings the beat… beat… down, with more of just Jake Bugg on acoustic, before ‘Two Fingers’ once again ignites the sing-a-long, before an inevitable encore.

But a(nother) prolonged pause leaves the room 50/50, is Jake Bugg actually coming back. Some of the crowd start to leave, before ‘Country Song’ finally opens the encore; quickly followed by a brief thank you and ‘Green Man’, which succinctly closes the show.

I duck out early to pick up my coat, getting an unorthodox Christmas message from Findlay’s merchandise stall on my way outside.

It’s been an evening of expectations, restlessness and unwanted retro Skiffle; leaving my eager bunny ears a little droopier than before.

But I appear to be alone, with most of the crowd knowing most of the words, and Jake Bugg already selling out his February gig – back at the HMV Institute.

And with Valerie June supporting, another act I am oh-so-eager to see live, I brace my frontal lobe… more editorial decisions will have to be made.

Jake Bugg, brought to you by Birmingham Promoters, plays the HMV Institute on February 19th 2013. For more details on this, and other gigs at the HMV Institute, visit http://hmvinstitute.com/listings/upcoming-events/11616/jake-bugg

For further gigs from Birmingham Promoters, visit http://birminghampromoters.com

For more on Jake Bugg, visit http://jakebugg.com

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