I walked into the main stage of Bowery Ballroom, and found that the room was completely packed. From couples to groups of friends, everyone was busy chatting about how excited they were to finally see Jake Bugg live; hailing from the UK, he finally came Stateside for a rare, small tour. As I expected, Bugg barely acknowledged the screaming crowd in front of him when he walked onto the stage. As a matter of fact, from his expression, you would think he didn’t even want to be there. But hey, that’s just Jake Bugg. From the minute I discovered him, I was automatically attracted to his nonchalant attitude in interviews and at award shows, which ultimately works because he’s just that talented. His songwriting is incredibly captivating, and my fellow concert goers continued to compliment him throughout the whole show, whispers of “fantastic!” slipping out every song or so.
The set started off quietly, then moved on into “Two Fingers,” which got the room singing. The group sing-along continued for the next song, also from his self-titled debut album, “Seen It All.” Next, he performed “Simple Pleasures” off his sophomore album, Shangri La, which translated ridiculously well onstage. It was so spot on, I was surprised as to how much it sounded like the version I listen to while walking to class. Next came the intro to one of my favorite Bugg songs, “Me and You,” which got a really lovely reaction from the couples around me (who would in any other context bother me, let’s be honest). But the sweet and simple lyrics about not giving a shit and staying in love resonated with me from the minute I heard it. Bugg also played a couple of new songs, which sounded similar to tracks from his first album. I heard him sing, “The love we’re hoping for is dying like this city,” from of one his new tracks, and smiled to know his songwriting is still on point. Though he performed many gentler new songs, he also debuted one that was fairly standard blues-rock, singing about trying to justify someone staying with him. There have been very few times in my life where I’ve been to a gig and the whole room shuts up, and that’s exactly what happened during his performance of “Country Song,” with people around me even shushing others. He ended his set on a high note, performing tracks like “There’s A Beast and We All Feed It,” “Taste It” and “Slumville Sunrise.” During “King Pin,” the crowd started to dance.
At the end of the gig, Bugg said a proper goodbye to the crowd, thanking everyone for coming, but then back to his usual m.o., he quickly left the stage. The gig was filled with beautiful performances of the more tender tracks from his records, where his songwriting truly shines, but he balanced the set with faster tracks that got the crowd to move. Bugg excels as a musician, but it was clear to see that he’s not doing this for attention. When the gig came to an end, I felt happy that I finally got to see one of my favorite songwriters live, and I left with the sense that Bugg was definitely doing this show for us, since he didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as we did. But, then again why should he have to? Just keep making music, Jake, and I’ll be happy. And based on the response from the crowd, they would surely agree.