Wolverhampton would appear to have somewhat of a soft spot for Jake Bugg and his startling take on the blues. It would also appear that this fondness is reciprocated by Bugg himself as tonight’s performance will be his last of a two night stint, Wolverhampton being the only city on this tour to have had this honour bestowed upon them. Of course, Bugg’s ability to fill the Civic Hall for two nights may have more to do with the City of Wolverhampton’s proximity to Bugg’s hometown of Clifton, just outside Nottingham, than any particular affinity with the Black Country. Surprisingly, when Bugg’s home city was missing from the tour itinerary it must have served as a disappointment to the hoards of family and friends that have supported him from his first tentative steps into the realm of the singer songwriter. Perhaps it is more likely that the reasoning for there not being a stop off on home turf is down to the venues available in Nottingham and their fit with Bugg at this point on his trajectory. Rock City, albeit a fantastic venue, may have just been slightly too small in comparison to the 3,000 capacity offered by the Civic, which is already close to full occupancy by the time that the support band take to the stage.
Hudson Taylor must have felt the pressure ease slightly as they are greeted enthusiastically by the audience before a single note is played. Fronted by Dublin brothers Alfie and Harry, the band certainly garners favourable support from the female following pinned against the crowd barrier. The band open with a song called ‘World Without You’ which demonstrates the precocious vocal ability of both singers as their diction and tone are perfectly entwined. This should come as no surprise as such voicing mimicry is a product of many singing siblings. Indeed, the effect is reminiscent of The Everly Brothers, an obvious comparison for singing brothers, but nevertheless, a comparison made with good reason. ‘Stranger’ is the stand-out song of a very impressive set and will surely find its way onto their debut album which is due for release in February next year. Hudson Taylor appear to have a great foundation upon which they will no doubt build. With a return to the midlands next month as part of a headline tour they are certainly worth further investigation if heartfelt and passionate song writing is your thing.
And so to the headline act who’s arrival is prefaced by wild and raucous canting. If there were any audience members in need of coaxing out of their Tuesday night tepidness then Oasis’ ‘Champagne Supernova’ seems to do the trick as it is sprayed from the speakers adorning the stage. Cue accompanying fists and the odd lighter being thrust in the air. One could be forgiven for thinking that they were at the recently decommissioned Blast Off! nights that have now been resigned to the memories of those revellers living for the weekend.
Bugg and his ever stalwart band (bassist Tom Robertson and drummer Jack Atherton) amble with purpose towards their chosen instruments on the sparsely populated stage. It is a little disappointing not to see Rick Rubin’s go-to-guitarist, Matt Sweeney plugging in following on from his appearances with Bugg for a number of festival slots this summer. Not surprisingly, the outdoor demands differ slightly to the requirements for a venue like the Civic.
Bugg’s diminutive amplification setup proves the age old adage about appearances being deceptive to be wholly true, as my ear drums can attest too. Launching into opening song of the night ‘Messed Up Kids’, the three piece blast their way through it with a seemingly effortless manner, which is mightily impressive. The audience are with Bugg from the get go, singing along with every word, and even in those moments of respite between numbers, choosing not to take a breather themselves, but to continue to sing Bugg’s praises literally via the vehicle of K.C. And The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give It Up’, with for tonight at least, has the familiar “give it up” lines switched in favour of “Jakey Bugg”. All of which is neither condoned or condemned by Bugg as his familiar poker face demeanour is displayed for the duration of the night. His feelings on the matter remain solely his.
Bugg and his band perform much of the material from the 2012 self titled debut and last year’s Shangri La, which is not at all surprising given the infancy of Bugg’s career. The set list is performed under a number of guises which certainly shows that the band have really taken the time to show each song in its best light. The various incarnations range from the full band experience, for songs like ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘Trouble Town’ to the solitary Bugg positioned centre stage bathed in the spotlight for splendid performances of ‘Country Song’ and a newly written ballad called ‘Looking Down The Avenue’, the latter, tinged with the kind of mournfulness sense that you would expect from any one of Abba’s most heart wrenching compositions.
Following the full band guise for ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, Atherton and Robertson depart once more, leaving Bugg to serenade the audience with a faultless performance of ‘Broken’ before the band reappear for the last song of the evening, the mammoth ‘Lightning Bolt’. Some performers it seems still hold this art form in high regard, Bugg it seems my just be capable of pushing it into another echelon altogether.
Messed Up Kids
Seen It All
Storm Passes Away
Me and You
There’s a Beast and We All Feed It
Ballad of Mr Jones
Looking Down the Avenue
A Song About Love
I Gotta Hold On You
What Doesn’t Kill You
Photographer: John Mason
Review: Chris Curtis