As I wait for Nottingham native Jake Bugg to take the stage at Terminal 5 in NYC, I notice a few kids in the front row trying to figure out how to scrub the Xs off their hands without any water. They’re talking about how Bugg is legal here and all they want is to be able to drink with him, because “Nobody drinks like the English do.” A few minutes pass and the boy in the group has successfully gotten rid of his underage X marks, and as he lets out a celebratory “Woo!” the lights dim.
Jake Bugg takes the stage alone and picks up an acoustic guitar. The stage is set for a full band, so I know we’re going to get two sides to Bugg this evening. He goes up to the microphone and starts in on the first song right away; in fact he goes through the first three songs without addressing the crowd. You can tell he is lost in his music—which is always good to see—but he seems to have forgotten he’s playing for an audience. His stage presence is lacking, especially for somebody who’s been playing guitar since he was 12 and has been performing since he was 16. The crowd is just pleased to be hearing him live, though; he’s one of those performers that sounds even better live, and Terminal 5 is an amazing venue for his voice. He finally addresses the crowd, and his strong British accent and deep voice are almost off-putting after hearing his Bob Dylan-esque singing until this point. He finishes up his acoustic set with “All That” and when the song comes to a close he replaces his acoustic guitar with an electric and his band takes the stage. The crowd erupts in applause, as they know the fun part of the show is about begin.
Once joined by his band, Bugg starts into his song “Two Fingers,” which is essentially about flipping off the world. His stage presence starts to exist more once his band mates join him and the music picks up energy. He’s still a bit stiff, but he seems to be enjoying himself more now. His set is filled with singles and fan favorites off his albums. He plays a huge set of rocking music, but when his performance nears its end, he decides to slow it down with an acoustic version of his song “Broken” which is definitely the lighter/makeout song of the evening. After this slow jam, he finishes up the set with the song that really put him on the map, “Lightning Bolt.”
Seeing Jake Bugg is definitely an experience I would suggest for everyone. He’s one of the few people you can see who gives a better performance than what you hear on the recording. His stage presence may be wanting, but his fans are enthusiastic and his musical performance really makes up it. He’s an artist not to miss.
View our gallery of photos below from Bugg’s stop at Terminal 5 in New York on 9/27/16.