Jake Bugg – review

Brixton Academy, London
With his gritty songs and Oasis-like swagger, teenage troubadour Jake Bugg is the fresh new face of Brit rock

"Where were you when we were getting high?" asks Oasis's Champagne Supernova, booming laconically through the PA just before Nottingham troubadour Jake Bugg takes the stage. The singalong is as deafening as any that accompanies Bugg's own songs tonight and serves as a handy echo-locator. There is no question about where we are. Technically, we're in "that London", hearing some new Jake Bugg tunes. More precisely, though, we are in the bosom of orphans – those left bereft by the Gallagher schism; men, women and children left without a figurehead when Oasis finally imploded a few years back.

Something of that band's alpha northern strut transferred itself naturally to Kasabian. The rest of it – the early pell-mell jangle, the young Liam Gallagher's smeary sneer, the tales of pills, thrills and bellyaches that ushered in Oasis's imperial period, the better bits, basically – came, somehow, to rest with Bugg, an almost perfect composite of front-cock Liam and Noel, the bard strategist, all wrapped up in an East Midlands urchin persona so perfect that it was only a matter of time before Shane Meadows descended. Kingpin, one of those new, slightly predictable, Oasissy songs, gets a keen reception tonight. It's a fast choogle about being a drug dealer, all lairy bragging, with a side order of fretting about "all the eyes [being] on your crown". Then there's Slumville Sunrise, another new, cantering bout of declamatory yearning that forms part of this set's climax. (The last few minutes of the song's knockabout jewel heist video, meanwhile, are worth anyone's time, with Meadows casting a truculent Bugg opposite a pregnant and sulky Rosamund Hanson from This Is England.)

The 19-year-old's self-titled debut album went to No 1 on release last October and has since sold about a million copies worldwide, polarising as it went. It displaced Mumford & Sons at the top of the UK chart, an act many interpreted as a return of grit to Brit rock, and victory of the recession-scarred north over the soft, smug south. Noel Gallagher anointed Bugg with a tour support slot for his High Flying Birds, and the guitarist (he swaps instruments probably a dozen times tonight) hasn't looked back since, picking the sorts of fights with the X Factor and One Direction that Noel used to pick with all comers in the 90s.

Bugg's done things for Burberry, been papped with model Cara Delevingne, and nailed his colours to the mast for "authenticity" (whatever that may be) against the pop manufacturing process, a claim slightly tarnished by the professional songwriters on his creative team. There are bevies of teenage girls here who scream, Harry Styles-style, every time Bugg looks even faintly in their direction. This just one of a few small curveballs in the reading of Bugg as Noel's mini-me.

When he hasn't been touring, Bugg has been working on his second album, due out just a year after his first one; a work ethic that cleaves to the pattern of bygone eras, like Bugg's better music does. Shangri La was recorded in California with US producer Rick Rubin, a Yoda-like figure who came up producing hip-hop before turning to metal and stage-managing the exit of the late Johnny Cash (which was how the country-loving Bugg had heard of him). This tour – including three nights at London's capacious Brixton Academy – finds Bugg playing great swaths of Shangri La, whose success is, basically, a given. It's more of the same, but varied and better arranged, with the odd surprise. Kitchen Table – which regrettably doesn't get played tonight – adds the faint hint of jazzy folk to Bugg's balladeering, for one. Tonight's unexpected revelation, meanwhile, is a Neil Young cover, Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black); not the cover itself, which Bugg has been doing for some time, but how easily Bugg's nasal Liam tips into reedy Neil, a connection rarely made by other singers.

Certainly, neither Gallagher could have written a manifesto such as There's a Beast and We All Feed It, the first track on Shangri La and tonight's opening salvo. It's a broadside in which skiffle meets Dylan in a parsimonious but pugnacious one minute and 43 seconds; a sequel, of sorts, to Lightning Bolt, but with more electricity in the emotion. "When my sister suffers/When my mother cries/All I wanna do is look in someone's eyes…" Bugg seethes. "There's a beast eating every kind of beauty and we all feed it." He has a point here.

Contributor

Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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