Jake Bugg at Fine Line Music Cafe, 8/5/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Reed Fischer

Jake Bugg
With Lydia Hoglund
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
August 5, 2013

One day after playing to tens of thousands of fans at Lollapalooza, Jake Bugg returned to the intimacy of a smaller stage for a rare club show at the Fine Line on Monday night. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Nottingham, England, seemed quite happy to be able to connect so immediately with the sold-out and supportive crowd. He was perhaps still in a daze due to his whirlwind North American tour -- which found him flying from New Zealand to play the Osheaga Festival in Montreal on Friday and a club date at the Mod Club in Toronto on Saturday, followed by Lolla in Chicago and the Minneapolis stop, all before leaving immediately for the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan.

It seems that the whole world wants a piece of Jake Bugg right now, and with the performance he put on at the Fine Line, who can blame them?

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A collar-popped Bugg performed with a competent two-piece band who stayed dutifully in the shadows for the most part (and went unintroduced), leaving the spotlight and much of the heavy lifting to Jake himself. He deftly switched from acoustic to electric guitar throughout the 55-minute performance, depending on what the songs demanded. But Bugg's rich vocals, effortless charm, and some truly wise-beyond-his-years lyrics were ultimately what made these songs so engaging and ultimately transcendent, even while the musicality and arrangements of some numbers were rather simple and pedestrian.

The show started with Bugg delivering a solo acoustic take on "Fire," which served as more of an introductory number to help ease his way into the performance. "Hello, Minneapolis," Bugg said warmly in his thick English accent. "Thanks for comin'." The band joined in on a straightforward run through of "Kentucky" before things got really lively on the stomping blues of "Trouble Town."

Bugg's songs are short and sweet, with very little fluff or wasted energy packed into their taut arrangements, harkening back to a time when the radio was filled with brisk two-minute pop songs that sang of love and longing. There is considerable lyrical depth to much of Bugg's material, but he keeps things simpler and more straightforward than many of his teen colleagues' overproduced albums filled with hype and shallow boasts.

Although the songs from Bugg's eponymous debut album had a dynamic pulse to them -- especially "Seen It All" and "Simple As This" -- he broke free from the routine of live performance and lost himself fully in the still-raw sentiments of the new numbers.

"Me and You" had a classic defiance to it and a powerful chorus, with an arrangement that was reminiscent of Fairport Convention. Another new song followed, the subtle Kinks homage "Slumville Sunrise," and it was one of the best moments of the set, with Bugg shredding naturally on his guitar, lost in the blustery blues. The band then left the stage, and Bugg played an acoustic mini-set that built on the promise suggested by his earlier material, as he effortlessly carried these poignant songs alone.

Bugg's declaration that "I'm going to play a couple of acoustic songs now," was met with loud cheers by the packed house, causing Jake to pause a bit. "Yeah? The band wasn't that bad, I didn't think," he teased, before easing into a touching, wistful take on "Country Song," which had a timeless appeal like early Simon and Garfunkel. "I've got a little treat for you now," Bugg said, in one of the rare moments of stage banter in the fast-moving set. "This is a new song -- a brand-new song, actually."

And with that, he launched into a soaring, anthemic number called simply "Song About Love," which touched on how sometimes giving your love to someone isn't quite enough, and you have to figure out what more there is to share with them to keep them in your life. It was one of the best live moments I've witnessed this year, with Bugg keeping his eyes closed tight throughout the performance, lost in the emotions coursing through the song. Forget saying that this kid has potential -- he has whatever "it" is right now, and he has it in spades.

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