REVIEW: Jake Bugg - Empress Ballroom, Blackpool

Jake Bugg
Jake Bugg
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For the first time in my life - due to a combination of advancing age and a nagging knee problem picked up in a particularly feisty five-a-side session - I sat upstairs at the Empress Ballroom to watch a gig.

I may well do it again for the vantage point gave a bird’s eye view of what has to be one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful venues in the country.

Unfortunately it also gave a decent view of some of the kids towards the front who started fighting four songs in, causing Bugg to stop for several minutes, and again at the end before he came back for his encore.

No matter. The security guards were in quickly and efficiently to sort things and the teenager got on with what he does best, belting out tunes that have propelled him towards the top end of the music business on the back of just one album.

Here he played all the classics from the first record as well as plenty of material from new album Shangri-La, which is out on Monday.

The good news for fans is the new stuff sounds strong, exactly like the old tunes - which, given how many copies the first album sold, is exactly what the record company no doubt wanted.

I saw Bugg earlier in the year at 53 Degrees in Preston, but he was much more confident here and has clearly now got used to his status as one of the music world’s A-listers.

Accompanied by just a bass guitarist and a drummer, he strutted around the stage delivering guitar solos and staring into the crowd like Liam Gallagher in his pomp. Not bad for a 19-year-old from a council estate in Nottingham.

The best part about him is his voice. It is so powerful yet so tuneful and distinctive, almost an instrument in itself. It perfectly suits his Johnny Cash/country-style songs.

The tempo dropped mid-set when his band left the stage and he played three songs on the acoustic guitar. But he built it back up, climaxing with the modern-classic Lightning Bolt, which had the Empress singing along as one.

The lad isn’t a world-beater yet (he doesn’t yet have the back catalogue) and don’t go if you’re expecting a bit of in between song banter - he doesn’t really have any.

But he has the potential to become one of the best artists this country has produced and it was good to catch him at the start of what is set to be a long, long journey.

STEVE CANAVAN