Jake Bugg, at just nineteen years old, has amassed an age-diverse army of fans and general well-wishers which just about defies his length of time on Earth. Fair enough, it might not be anything new for artists of Bugg’s vintage to do this, but generally speaking, and in this day and age, it is a rarity for somebody to gain this type of universal appreciation across such an age expanse without stumbling across at least one or more set of ‘deal breakers’. Jake Bugg compromises nothing, from his appearance, his artistry, his allegiance to his own view of authenticity, nothing gets taken for granted.
Yet the fans at the Olympia Theatre all seem to be getting what they want. The older ones are seeing a throwback to musical aesthetics more fitting to their tastes; you know, “real” music, no bells and whistles and honest to fuck belters. The middle generation is visibly reminiscent of a time when coolness came from a literal detachment from any fawning or effort aside from strolling around the stage not giving a fiddler’s a la Liam Gallagher. The younger fans in attendance are seeing something quite unique in a performer who isn’t selling light beer flavoured piss-water or fizzy sugar syrup or fast food. To be fair, who knows what Bugg is hawking in and around the lesser watched regions of the world but for now, and for what we can see, he is just a musician. And this is something which is unfortunately pretty rare amongst his peers.
The opening part of the set is full of new material, with only ‘Trouble Town’, ‘Seen It All’ and ‘Taste It’ taken from his debut. Considering that for most of the crowd the opening tracks are brand new at best, unheard at worst, it is some achievement that this doesn’t dent the crowd’s enthusiasm one iota. Bugg’s two-piece band sound muscular and tight, and his often ridiculed nasal delivery sounds fuller and richer than when recorded and adds another lacquered-on sense of authenticity to his 60’s troubadour pastiche. It really doesn’t need to be pointed out but Jake Bugg is not a ’60s troubadour, yet he so effortlessly and comprehensibly embodies the requisite characteristics to perfect effect. See Donovan, Neil Young, or his latter-day idol Noel Gallagher for examples of this.
The remainder of the set is more familiar fare, including a Monkees-esque rendition of ‘Green Man’, ‘Ballad of Mr. Jones’ and a frankly astounding solo version of ‘Song About Love’ from his new album Shangri La. The encore brings with it a bouncy version of Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)’ before finishing with ‘Lightening Bolt’. It would be a lie to suggest that Bugg does his most well known song any real justice this time around, but he still gave his very considerable all and can be forgiven for it. For all his strictly-no-bullshit airs and efforts, only time will tell if this retro approach to his craft will help or hinder him in the long run, but tonight he gave the audience, despite their age, a lesson in what it means to him to perform. And with songs such as those performed on this wet and poxy Dublin night, how refreshing it is to see a young musician without the all too familiar nonsense of keeping practitioners of the dark arts happy.