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Concert Reviews:
Jake Bugg lives up to the hype at Royal Oak show

21st Century Media/Digital Media First, @GraffonMu

Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014

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ROYAL OAK -- If Jake Bugg felt like he had something to prove on Wednesday night, Jan. 15, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, he didn't show it.

But the critically lauded 19-year-old British troubadour's nearly 75-minute show proved that all the hype generated by his early career success, especially in his homeland, is merited.

Though he looks like he could be a member of One Direction, Bugg came out sounding like he'd been locked in the vaults of Sun Records since the 50s, fronting a tight, bare-bones trio and chugging through the vintage rockabilly shuffles of "There's a Beast and We All Feed It" and "Trouble Town." He shifted gears into the swinging pop of "Seen It All," cruised through the breezy folk of "Simple as This" and adopted some country-western swagger during "Storm Passes Away" and "Two Fingers" before grabbing an electric guitar for the riffy rock of "Messed Up Kids."

In just seven songs, Bugg covered more territory than some artists do in an entire career, and that impressive range was backed up by a calm assurance and genuine affinity for each of those genres. Bugg is not one given to flash or extended jamming; the tunes were tight and taut, and when he did solo -- on "The Ballad of Mr. Jones," "Taste It" and "What Doesn't Kill You" -- he never played more than what was necessary to bolster the song.

Bugg also acquitted himself well on solo acoustic performances of "Pine Trees" and "Broken," while his encore cover of Neil Young`s "My My, Hey Yey (Out of the Blue)" was an appropriate nod to a clear stylistic and philosophical influence. Bugg's own "Simple Pleasures," "Green Man," "Kingpin," "Slumville Sunrise" and "Lighting Bolt" were high-spirited highlights as well, while "A Song About Love" showed he was just as comfortable down-shifting into more delicate terrain.

This clearly won't be the last we see of Bugg, whose rocket is still in a sharp -- and entirely deserved -- ascent.

The Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr., meanwhile, had a harder go of it during his opening set, guzzling water to help the "sick voice" he acknowledged early in his set. Nevertheless, Hammond and his five-piece solo band powered through, delivering songs from his own recordings such as "Scared," "I Miss You Already" and Carnal Cruise" before finishing with a tear through the Misfits' punky "Last Caress."

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