Jake Bugg’s 10th Year Anniversary homecoming concert got off to a spirited start at Motorpoint Arena, in Nottingham, on November 26, 2022. The show had a great turnout. The venue, which is the biggest in the East Midlands, with a capacity of 10,000, was full to the brim! Despite the nippy weather, crowds had lined up early for the show, who couldn’t pass up the opportunity to once again watch their folk rock legend, whose music has been the soundtrack to their lives. Ah, the beauty of music, it brings us all together, doesn’t it? I can only imagine how Jake feels to perform for a hometown audience again, after all these years. Must be absolutely buzzing to get back on that stage and get that crowd getting pumped as well. Singing throwback songs of trials and tribulation of growing up in Clifton, to countless people there. To be honest, I’ve never heard of Jake Bugg and his music before. Safe to say that this whole experience is a collection of many firsts: It’s my first time in the UK, first time to listen to his songs and watch him perform live. Ashamed to admit I am a thad late to the part, I must have been living under a rock, the last decade or two…but who’s counting? Luckily, someone’s left no stone unturned, shed some light on me, and brought me to this concert. So, I arrived at the venue like a blank canvas, with zero influence of weekly top 20 or chart hits. Partly blind, not knowing what to expect. But I thought, that’s what made the whole experience exciting. Probably how these people felt the first time they heard Jake’s songs and watched him perform them live, 10 years ago. Doors opened at 6pm. I waltzed over to the gate entrance and slithered my way to upper deck. I was very much delighted to find my seat facing the stage, which I thought, was a perfect spot to eagle-eye watch people, as they gradually trickled in and filled the massive arena. While I was waiting in anxious anticipation, I noticed variety of types of people in the audience: from groups of pint guzzling teenagers, to pouty selfie girl groups trying to sweet-talk security for a better spot or angle, to families with young kids, looking all hyped. This vibrant mix of people serves as proof for the broad appeal and timeless quality of Bugg’s music.
The colossal stage was stunning! The production set up was solid. The kaleidoscopic display of coloured lights sets the tone, which I thought added a unique layer of excitement and energy to the atmosphere. After a half hour waiting period full of audience anticipation, Bugg finally came on stage to roars of approval in his signature minimalist look (shirt, jeans, trainers) and started off his acoustic set with Strange Creature. As he strums the first cords and sings the opening lyrics 'Oh it's cold world, but it's home to me’ goosebumps tingle down my spine. I had to squint through the intermittently flashing lights, just to make sure I was listening to a man in his late 20s, as I was hearing an old world voice from an era long before his own. Oh, that familiar rustic twang! The general vibe of it reminds me of Bob Dylan, who rocked this venue, in October. I was miffed that I had missed watching it, but this lad from Clifton is serving all the retro folky feels, nonetheless. What a great consolation! Jake welcomed and bantered with the crowd after the opening song before swiftly moving on to the next. His vocals had me mesmerised. And when he ended the acoustic set with Saffron, pulling off his impressive guitar finger-picking skills, I knew I was in for a treat!
Jake’s intimate set performance was sublime. His voice did not fail to fill the room and mesmerise the audience. The homecoming vibe was deep. His legions of fans know every lyric by heart and sings it back to him, while I was struggling to fudge my way throughout. I was literally scat singing gibberish choruses, accompanied by nonsense syllables to substitute for unknown lyrics. But hey, I was there, I was part of it and got to live the moment. The sensation was electrifying and the whole vibe was magical! The spectacle of shifting patterns projected against the crowd, that’s well synchronised and coordinated with the music, enhanced Jake’s intoxicating performance and allowed the audience to lose themselves in the scene. The crowd mover There’s a Beast and We All Feed It has got to be my ultimate favourite. Its upbeat sound got everyone moving. The sharp lyricism, the incredible rhythmic sounds out of his guitar were brilliant! And by the end of it, every hair on my arms was standing on end. I was already blown away. The interlude gave us a glimpse of Jake’s interview clips and live recordings, reminding the audience of the great highs of his career, through album releases to Glastonbury performances. I see Jake Bugg to be a musician whose personality has not been blemished by his fame, and not yet claimed by the mainstream. His fans love him because of his down to earth nature and genuine love for his art. Although the performances themselves enchanted the crowd throughout, fans were also charmed by Bugg’s humbleness and gratitude, as he continuously thanked the crowd throughout and gently encouraged them to sing along. I would have liked though, if Jake was more interactive with his audience. He may not be a big talker between song breaks, but his set list delivered some mad chemistry and fizz nonetheless.
Jake ticked off hits and big tunes from his self titled 2012 debut album. It’s great because he’s kind of like sonically been changing from acoustic to like more dynamic kind of sound throughout the album. He has gone from acoustic to electric eclectic that had very pop sensibilities going through it, which I really really liked. He manages to jump convincingly from up-tempo to ballad without disrupting the flow. He was absolutely nailing it all night. Fire was aesthetically stunning! Its folk tune was absolute magic! Trouble Town was a cool groove and the instrumental breakdowns were wicked! I thought it was a nice gesture to feature Notts’ artists as well, including a local rapper and the Queen Elizabeth choir that added depth to Jake’s heart wrenching hit Broken. Some songs surely pulled at my heartstrings in some way, but this one struck a particular chord in me, perhaps the rest of the crowd felt it too, as they raised a torch to this big ballad, that swelled into a sea of mobile lights.
Jake rattled through his hits Two Fingers and Lightning Bolt, and the inevitable has happened: the crowd went ballistic! They broke into chant of ‘I drink to remember, I smoke to forget’ giving Jake the two finger salute. Then unidentified objects (pints, I believe) started flying about the place, while people having a bit of a boogie. The venue was literally bouncing. The groove was fantastic! There were some instrumental moments that were utterly transcendent-one part towards the end of Lightning Bolt was pure eargasm! I thought the arrangement of the greatest hits set was really nice because you do have those moments on there likeDowntown, Slumville Sunrise and Hold Tight, which are little bit more stripped back and they’re kind of cushioned in between these kind of more upbeat tracks. Messed Up Kid, is another favourite of mine. A song of constant worry about how to get by. It’s just so relatable.
I also liked how he integrated songs from newer albums that had nostalgic reminiscence from his other albums, and just kind of balance the old with the new a little bit, but you see where the foundations have come from. Finale was spectacular! All I need with Joy, perfectly finished off the night. Both of their vocals were just sublime! What an epic finish! I have had witnessed many live tremendous acts and performances before and I would consider this, hands down one of the best events I’ve seen live in a while, and it left me totally spellbound. After the show has ended, I asked myself: Why did I wait 10 long years before I was bitten by this BUGg? As I was leaving the Arena, I overheard a group of women chatting about the concert. One of them said ‘Jake is Marmite’, in that you either like him or you hate him with his nasal sounding and often whiny voice. But, I thought to myself, if he’s marmite, you can find me spreading it thick and fast and licking the smear off the knife. Absolutely gorgeous!
Article By Chaka Diamante - Photography By Simon Sarin