It was supposed to have gone off. It SHOULD have gone off. Men, women and kids vibrating with excitement were prepped for the triumphant return of one teen folkthrob, Mr. Jake Edwin Charles Kennedy, aka Jake Bugg. Vancouver’s venerable theatre the Orpheum (which also doubles as a portal between Prime and Alternate universes in the sci-fi show Fringe, fact fans) had put on her best dress for the almost-sold-out show and was looking spectacular. It was time to play the music! It was time to light the lights! It was time to get things started for the Jake Bugg show tonight!
And so, with a shy demeanor and slight swagger, did Bugg appear on stage. Cracking not too much of a smile in this huge, wonderful room, filled with a huge crowd of wonderful people who were beaming, he started with “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It” from new album Shangri-La, looping into “Trouble Town” and “Seen It All”.
Bugg’s where he is, at the tender age of almost 20, because he’s got an incredible voice, a kind of Lee Mavers of the La’s thing going on that holds when it needs to and wavers when it should. (I can’t for the life of me hear too much Dylan in him, but perhaps Robert Zimmerman comparisons are the cross a male folk singer has to bear, and Bugg gets nailed with this a lot.) His speaking voice is lower than the nasal register he sings in, as he mumbles niceties in between songs.
So did the crowd go…wild? No. But they should have. They certainly wanted to. Fans indeed held up peace signs during “Two Fingers” (just a note, kids, you need to reverse the direction of those fingers for that song, he means the British equivalent of “fuck off” for it) and during the encore, people far back in the balconies leapt to their feet for rabble rouser “Lightning Bolt.” During the pure acoustic solos of “Pine Trees” and “Broken” you could hear nary a pin drop (except the loud Scouse twats braying next to me). “What Doesn’t Kill You” sounded great, of course. For the faithful cover of Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue”), those of us old enough to appreciate a young folk singer covering the song of an old folk singer, grinned wide.
But were there vast singalongs and beaming, jumping fans? Was it a joyous explosion of awesome? Was there charisma and magic? Erm. Bugg sounded great – he is great- but looked tired. And that’s a given. He’s been on tour for large parts of the last coupla. His eyes were dead, and his swagger to the lip of the stage was obligatory. I have the very feeling that if Bugg is on, he’s electric. Yet tonight someone had slightly adjusted the voltage. Shame. It should have really gone off. \m/
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