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Jake Bugg Brighton

He must be groaning under the weight of all the acclaim piled on top of him recently, but Jake Bugg doesn’t seem to be feeling the pressure. At the tender age of 19, he’s already been hailed as both the voice of a generation and even as the new Billy Bragg, by the man himself during his John Peel lecture at 2012 Radio Festival. We’d all forgive him if he had butterflies in his tummy.

But there’s no sign of that in our Jake as he strides on stage with a Gallagher-esque swagger and a haircut straight out of the sixties songbook. Taking up his guitar he launches into the opening track ‘Fire’ which was barely audible over the screaming crowd.

He may be just a slip of a boy, but there’s something timeless about the ‘Lightning Bolt’ singer. It’s not just his adolescent peers who have flocked down to The Dome tonight, dressed in their best imitation mod attire but the actual ageing mods themselves, clad in a fairly similar get-up.

No sign of Bradley Wiggins, sadly, although there’s a few people who look like they use the same tailor. But it’s the sort of setting you could imagine him in, dressed like Austin Powers and in love with the glory days of British rock’n’roll.

No synths or drum machines here – let alone autotune – there’s just guitar after guitar brought on to help the working class wunderkind spin his tales of urban blues. In one of the few nods to modernity in this most atavistic of settings, the younger fans hold phones aloft to film the gig. Similarly to the lost Libertines days, crowd members get carried away and waggle a two finger salute during his hit track ‘Two Fingers’

As the short set wore on and the rhythm section were booted off stage, so Bugg could perform an acoustic set – a hackneyed little trick which every self-respecting Britpop band used to pull off back in the nineties. Playing tracks like ‘Slide’ alone in the spotlight, he encouraged the crowd to sing along and they followed his orders with vim.

“This will be my last song,” Bugg sniggers, looking delighted to be able to pull off this other old trick, and finally delivering his hit song ‘Lightning Bolt’ before the encore, to a crowd who lap the song up as if Zeus himself had sent it. After thanking the crowd, he keeps up the electric (sorry) atmosphere with a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, before leaving the audience with the sense that they had witnessed something classic. Or at least old-fashioned.

Which is both Bugg’s triumph and his downfall. It’s all very well loving the good old days, but can you really improve on them? Bugg seems to think he can – and his fans agree. It remains to be seen if Bugg will be as great as his heroes.

Originally posted on The Big Issue.

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