AU ABROAD

Live Review: Jake Bugg + The Creases + The Growl - Enmore Theatre, Sydney (20.04.14)

Yet another British singer-songwriter whose popularity seems to be growing exponentially, the sold out Enmore Theatre crowd consisted of about 90% British attendees. That would probably explain why this show was sold out, as I don’t think Jake Bugg is as well-known amongst Australian fans that would warrant such a packed room. Regardless those in the crowd were definitely eager to see him perform.

Cameron Avery frontman for The Growl was our opener, playing solo meant the sound was a little more toned down compared to when playing with the band as a whole. Still managing to retain the alt-rock feel though it was a bit more shoe-gazey than bluesy with plenty of distortion to enhance that dirty garage sound. Even a rowdy heckler couldn’t trip Avery up, retorting with a serve “No matter how loud you are I’ve got the mic so just shut the f*ck up” and that was only at 8:20pm, clearly it was going to be a long night of drunken laddish behaviour.

The Creases were a bit brighter to listen to, sounding like a mixed blend of Placebo, Ash and The Dandy Warhols. They draw a larger portion of the audience out from the bar and onto the floor. They have some classic jangly guitars and write songs about falling in love with that someone even though you probably shouldn’t. For a band from Brisbane they seem to encapsulate that classic Brit-Pop sound, and those in the audience seem to enjoy what they’re hearing.

You could be forgiven for thinking Jake Bugg is barely a day over 15, with his fresh, boyish looks and his initially quiet onstage demeanor. Unless you were familiar with him, you’d probably not be aware of the fact that he’s already got two albums under his belt as well as a number of festival performances and nearly a dozen award nominations to his name. This would now be his second time visiting Australian shores to play and all of this at only 20 years of age. As mentioned earlier, the mostly British audience was probably better versed in Bugg and this was evident during the several raucous sing-a-longs that happened.

Opening with ‘Kentucky’ and following that up with ‘There’s A Beast And We All Feed It’ Bugg delivers a very country-tinged alt-pop-rock sound. Then immediately we’re treated to two of Bugg’s singles ‘Trouble Town’ and ‘Seen It All’ both off his debut record Jake Bugg in rapid succession. This gets the crowd riled up and we’re regaled by our first bout of sing-a-longs from the rowdy punters. Overall he keeps the pace fairly mid-tempo and it’s not until ‘The Ballad Of Mr Jones’ that Bugg slows things down and gets a little moody. He’s quite stoic onstage and it’s not until the back half of the set that he seems to loosen up a little and get a little more movement away from his microphone, happening onstage. As for banter, it’s almost non-existent and in some ways this is advantageous as it enables Bugg to just keep churning out the songs with a 20 song set including the encore. The last handful of songs are where Bugg really gets cracking though and it’s his more alt-folk-rock sound that seems to energise the room. ‘Taste It’, ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ have Bugg shredding his Fender electric guitars with an ardent energy befitting that of his pre-encore break.

‘A Song About Love’ welcomes us back from the short little intermission and it along with his Neil Young cover of ‘Hey Hey, My My’ are good examples of why Bugg is so often compared to other such troubadours as Young, Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan. He has an earnest delivery that is endearing without being pretentious and for somebody so young he makes it look so damn easy in the execution. His closing song ‘Lighting Bolt’ is a just that, a bolt of energy to close the show with and the room dances and jives along to the twangy guitar and drubbing bass and the night comes to a close.

Interestingly though it’s Bugg’s no-nonsense performance that leaves me feeling curious afterward. The lack of interaction with the audience is clearly by choice for whatever personal reason and despite him performing well and penning great songs it just leaves a certain coolness upon exiting the venue. It will remain to be seen if Bugg has the longevity and stamina in the industry to match those of his aforementioned classic peers and whether in time his onstage performances become a little warmer. He certainly has the years ahead of him to try and prove it.