Jake Bugg played the Sound Academy with Albert Hammond Jr. and The Skins opening for him. I haven’t been to the venue since it was called The Docks, which either shows my age or how much I try to avoid that club when I can. I originally planned on seeing Jake Bugg last summer at Osheaga in Montreal but unfortunately he was playing at the same time as Two Door Cinema Club and Ellie Goulding.
The Skins, who hail from New York, opened the night’s shows at 8pm. The band members range from 15 and 21, although they have a tight enough band to suggest they have been playing for years longer then their ages suggest. If you would compare what genre they play you would end up with a comparison to the UK funk/hard rock band The Heavy. Their live sound sounds like the howling music of Queens of the Stone Age with the RnB flavor of Janelle Monae. They had dueling guitar solos that Slash would have been proud of. It is always great hearing a young band with such a polished sound so early into their careers. For most of their set the growing crowd was docile, by the end they were working up a bit of a groove.
While I would have loved to be able to see Albert Hammond Jr. playing with his main band, New York icons The Strokes, seeing him is worth the price of admission on its own. The vocalist and guitar player has amassed a nice little discography of work outside of his regular gig, including last years four song EP entitled AHJ. Hammond was unfortunately nursing a cold that made his voice very scratchy. At first it was nothing more than some grittiness added, but by the end of his set he was noticeable hoarse and was unable to hit the higher notes. Having three guitar players allowed for some great layering of songs, as was evident playing St. Justice, having one guitarist plucking away the melody, another proving the 4/4 riff and Albert thrashing away. If there ever was a doubt that The Strokes is only the Julian Casablancas show, all you need to do is listen to a Hammond record. Strokes style song writing and guitar playing are all over Hammond’s work, albeit with his trademark slow bluesy crawl added instead of New Wave keyboard solos. He ended his set playing a hyped up version of Rude Customer with an extended guitar solo.
After a far too long of a set change, 19-year-old Jake Bugg hit the stage just before 10pm. Bugg came out to a scratchy recording of an old Robert Johnson song; sounding like it was being played from the original 45 over the loudspeaker system. Playing Robert Johnson, which any serious blues buff will know its implications, set the bar for what was in store. Bugg sounds like he grew up with a cool uncle back in Nottingham, England who had every folk, rock and blues record that made its way across the Atlantic, while also listening to Oasis and Arctic Monkeys at parties. The first few songs were played with the twang of early Johnny Cash, like the fantastic tune Trouble Town off of his first album. His backing band consisted of a bass player/back up vocalist and a drummer who were on opposite ends of the stage mostly in the dark. They provided a tight, full sound. Playing Seen It All, his stoned out version of a boozy country anthem, he was able to showcase his leading man charm. One fan gave him a LP and he thanked the person claiming he didn’t own that particular record but that it was a good one. Halfway through his set his backing band left and Jake did several solo acoustic songs, Pine Trees being the highlight. The show was pretty mellow but when the band came back Bugg busted out the electric guitar and played a scorching set including new songs Messed Up Kids and Slumville Sunrise. After what seemed to be one of the longest encore breaks I have ever witnessed, the very loud crowd finally got the man back onstage, where he played three songs including a cover of local hero Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My. He finished off with an extended version of Lightening Bolt that electrocuted the whole crowd into a manic frenzy. While Bugg didn’t talk much to the crowd his songs about hard living British tales did more than enough talking for him.
Thanks to Live Nation for media access.