Here's the ‘somethings’ I think you need for making successful music:
1. you need good songs
2. you don't need a gimmick
3. you don't need "a look" but...
4. you do need to look good
5. you need to be good
6. you need to believe in yourself
7. make it look effortless
Whether he would admit to having ever thought so hard about the Rules of Rock 'n' Roll as written by such as myself, 20 year-old Nottingham born Jake Bugg follows, reinvents and bends the rules as he wants.
What strikes me immediately on seeing him is he is young and small, and it's hard to believe he can command a large stage basically alone and command it like an old hand. The band tears into the 20 songs like men possessed and again I am surprised by how much of a rock star he is ... I was expecting more of the crooning ballads, a stool and an acoustic guitar I suppose. There are those songs too, the highlight being "Broken" where the single light illuminates his small figure alone on stage, just a man, a guitar, a bloody good tune and a distinctive mega voice, you can hear a pin drop and the sound of young hearts breaking all the way along the front row. He makes it look sooo easy. No question, this kid's good.
The concert was way more rock 'n' roll than I had expected, I knew he played electric guitar, but I wasn't expecting the nonchalance with which he did so, and the roaring of the crowd to any solos and his occasional casual wander around the stage towards the eager young fans pressing up against the stage, suggests I wasn't the only one.
I wasn't able to come to his previous concert here. I hear he was vastly better this time around, having been merely amazing last time. I hear this one was twice as well attended. The amount of touring he's squeezed in the last few years will certainly have helped. He's been a very busy man, and in one of the few things he said to the audience - (as a) man of few words - he acknowledged their support, as the effort made to come all this way to the other end of the world is not small, nor does it go unappreciated thanks Jake!
The audience was more varied from my expectations, from the very young to the much older, and people like me - somewhere in between - and bless! not a "snap-back" to be seen, which suggests his much more eclectic fan base.
Bugg must be sick of hearing that he's an old soul, but when he sings "They keep telling me, I'm older than I'm supposed to be" (on “Storm Passes Away” from Shangri-la), you believe it regardless of his age, and so do all the kids in the audience on Thursday night at the Town Hall. When he rolls through "Two Fingers", and the entire audience put up their fingers and sing along - which they do to most of the songs - I am aware of what classics these songs now are to many, and how he has captured the thoughts of his generation, whether the youth of New Zealand, or the UK, or anywhere in between. Smart boy. Smart man.
When 2012 saw the release of his self titled debut and I first heard it, yet again I was blown away by his youth because the songs are very - and I hate genre-labelling – well, "old" sounding ... was it country? Was it rockabilly? Was it pop? And why the hell was a kid from Nottingham playing and singing like that? But none of that matters at the end of the day, I loved it, and I loved it even more when seeing him in the flesh, interviewed on chat shows and seeing how down to earth he seemed and so downright ... well, cool and unaffected. The fact that he looks like the love child of Noel Gallagher - a friend and big fan - and The Beatles isn't a bad thing, but he sounds like neither. He sounds like someone mixed early Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Gene Pitney into a blender and pressed 'whizz'.
In that small body dressed in simple unadorned black t-shirt, jeans and trainers, there's no doubt in my mind Jake Bugg knows exactly what he's about and where he's going - first album No 1. No problem. The much feared second album, easily as good as the first, different but the same, d'you know what I mean?
I was smiling from the carefully chosen pre-show songs: Johnny Cash "Personal Jesus", The Smiths "How Soon Is Now?" to the end of the show and the encore with a cover of Neil Young's "Hey, Hey My My". Of course Bugg would probably be aware that Oasis used to play that as one of their regular covers, statement of intent innit? It seems someone knows exactly what they are doing. Or maybe he just likes the tune, either way, Jake Bugg's come so far so soon, I'm so keen to see what he does next. Seems like rock 'n' roll's in good hands again. My my.
Words and photos: Pania Brown. Pania can be found performing live at various South Island venues of ill repute, and also at Pania Brown Artworks.