Review: Jake Bugg at O2 Guildhall, Southampton

Good but different

Powerful and emotive performance that introduces a new and mature Jake Bugg. However, in exchange this resulted in some of the much loved energy of his early material being lost

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Jake Bugg took to the O2 Guildhall on Sunday as part of his interestingly relaxed and mature solo acoustic tour. Reviews hadn’t been highly positive for this tour so far, yet any criticisms were obviously taken into account for this show, which was a huge success.

The night began with excellent support from fellow Nottingham singer-song writer Georgie, who had a powerful and soulful voice infused with Winehouse/Duffy vibes. Whilst her music may have been mostly unknown to the crowd, she captivated the audience and kept them engaged as they eagerly awaited Bugg’s performance. Her big hit ‘Company of Thieves’ was the most memorable of her set, and evoked decent crowd involvement. Following this, her soulful cover of the Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ got the whole audience singing along, making it wholly convincing that they were there to see her own headline set rather than watching her as a support act. Unknown to me before arriving, but definitely an act I will follow from now on, Georgie is one to keep an eye out for.

After Georgie’s successful performance, Bugg saunters onto the simply lit stage, consisting of a single microphone and his acoustic guitar. The simplicity of the stage set up complimented the minimalistic purpose of this tour; to perform the songs raw and undistracted. Any distraction from exaggerated backing music and lights was avoided, and as a result the main focus was his powerful vocals and meaningful lyrics. Through this, Bugg managed to make the large O2 venue feel intimate; he hasn’t lost the spark he had when starting out at 17, playing in much smaller venues to much fewer people. Yet there was also notable development in his stage presence. He no longer rushes through the songs, with small mumbles thanking the audience in-between. Instead, he made a few jokes and interacted with his audience, seeming to actually enjoy the performance side of his music in a way I don’t think he expressed in his early days.

Personally, I found the most successful songs of the evening were the slower, emotional tunes, most notably ‘Broken’ from his self-titled debut album and ‘Me and You’ off his second album, Shangri-La. This isn’t surprising considering the acoustic element of the set, and aroused a heartfelt sing-a-long from his audience. However, his bigger, more upbeat hits, such as ‘Seen It All’ and ‘Lightning Bolt’ were what the crowd was waiting out for, and although powerful, the fast pace that makes these songs such crowd pleasers could not be achieved, leaving a sense of incompleteness. Nonetheless, the audience got fully behind them, singing back every word to a sombre Bugg. Whilst he had a good combination of old and new material, the majority of the set was dedicated to songs from his first two albums, perhaps in the knowledge that these were, and still are, his most loved and iconic tracks.

Overall, Bugg put on a great performance and it was good to see him take to the stage alone with a more mature and growing stage persona. My only comment would be that this maturity, impressively ahead of his time at the tender age of 24, was something his crowd was not anticipating. His classic hits brought out the rowdiness of some of the younger members of the audience, yet the energy of these earlier songs was not possible acoustically. Throughout the breaks between his new songs, there were frequent calls for his well known song ‘Two Fingers’, to the point where he joked: “Better sing ‘Two Fingers’ as she’s been shouting for it all night’. Ultimately, whilst his acoustic solo performance allowed him to showcase his raw and undeniable talent, his songs were missing some of the energy that makes them so well loved, and I don’t think his fans are quite ready to let go of that just yet.

Check out ‘Lightning Bolt’ below:


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