Credit: Ger Harte
November 10 2017
Words: Ronan Calvert
“Sorry, I haven't spoken much tonight, I'm kinda hangin',” is just about what you come to expect when it comes to showmanship at a Jake Bugg concert. He's a moody character, one that isn't too fussed about interacting with his crowd, yet his knack for cutting out the bullshit earns him extra respect from those who pay to see him.
That’s because the songwriter and his fans share one thing in common - they're there for the love of the music and little else.
In many ways the music does the talking for the Nottingham man. While his dry, sarcastic personality is key to the songs that made him a Mercury Prize-nominated 19 year old, the night also proved that he has accumulated a fine collection of sing-along fan-favourites since his debut album. ‘Lightning Bolt’ will always be the king, but the enthusiasm shown for songs like ‘Slide’ and ‘The Love We're Hoping For’ from the Limerick audience is sure to have pleased the 23 year old throughout the show.
To begin with, however, the crowd wouldn’t sing all too much as a handful of songs from new album ‘Hearts That Strain’ opened the set. This meant they would instead stand wide-eyed in appreciation of Bugg as he performed the album's title track and then single ‘How Soon The Dawn’ with a stunning display of singing and acoustic guitar playing as his fingers scuffled across the fretboard. Perhaps his new material doesn’t have the makings of a classic, but without the American production, it made the room fall silent in appreciation of Bugg the musician.
Credit: Ronan Calvert
To see an artist of his stature working his magic somewhere as intimate as Dolan’s really was a treat. Tales of the ‘trouble town' he grew up in began to work their way into proceedings not long later. The room was engaged and the best was yet to come. ‘Slide’, ‘Me And You’, ‘There's A Beast And We All Feed It’, ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and the aforementioned ‘Trouble Town' brought a mix of energy and melodic excellence to the party either side of a Glen Campbell cover version.
Midway through the night and Bugg was performing at almost flawless standards as he hopped from one tune to the next with little to no breaks in between. He had peaked and then it was time for the run in. More stuff from ‘Hearts That Strain' and the glories of his debut album filled the last half an hour before reaching the climax that is ‘Lightning Bolt'. Bugg, being the realist he is, identified what the people wanted and promised “I'm going to do a couple more songs from my new album then I'll play 'Two Fingers' and that.” And while ‘Southern Rain' and ‘Waiting’ were enjoyable listens, at the end of the day there can be little argument that Nashville Jake is better than Nottingham Jake. Singing “down in the kitchen drinking while lightning” just seemed more natural somehow. Before the show’s conclusion, Dolan's fell quiet one last time as the opening chord to ‘Broken’ rang out to a hush.
As tired as he admitted to being, Bugg sang this one with the same passion he did four years ago as it built slowly and beautifully before allowing the crowd to join along for its climax. The people of Limerick loved it and he felt it too. ‘Waiting’ and ‘Lightning Bolt' would follow, but Bugg took the opportunity to say “thanks very much” and “best of luck to Ireland in the play-off tomorrow” there and then. ‘Lightning Bolt' was as ever the last hurrah. A predictable move of course, but it is a song that involves everyone lucky enough to have a ticket. Everything is subtle with the Englishman, but he conveyed hints of happiness to the performance of each and every one of his hits and this was no exception.
Bugg’s music has taken a new direction, but it's clear to see that he hasn't lost sight of what works best. For the fans, this was a night of musical appreciation, singing...and dare I say, nostalgia.