Walking on stage with his signature shag and stoic manner, Jake Bugg did nothing but impress in his Dec. 5 concert at Paradise Rock Club. His voice sounded exactly like it does in every track he has ever recorded, putting a face to all his poignant melodies. Backed by only an amp and his own guitar, Bugg relied on his own mastery as an artist to impress the 200 or so devoted fans. Bugg was not overly animated, but it’s the quiet energy in his songs that attracts fans in the first place. He opened with the title song of his fourth album, “Hearts that Strain,” which dropped in September. Although he was touring for this new album, Bugg’s setlist included favorites from all of his albums and even some that were never recorded in the studio. The crowd was more than happy to let the 23-year-old singer-songwriter know how much they appreciated him, and in his stoic manner he responded every time to their praises with a modest “cheers.”
Opening the concert was Boston native MB Padfield. The young artist brought energy to the show and hyped up the crowd for the night to come. Promising that none of her songs were pre-recorded, Padfield playfully explained the stories behind all of her songs and the various escapades one only expects from a rockstar. Padfield also highlighted the importance of supporting artists like herself by coming to concerts and shows. Using a penny to highlight her point, she claimed that for every stream on Spotify, Apple Music or any other streaming service, the artist gets 1/33rd of the penny. The monetary reward is small for musicians when compared to how much hard work and dedication they put into their art, yet Padfield is hopeful for the future, and she also explained that artists were being taken advantage of less than in the past. After Padfield played her set, the crowd waited in anticipation as Bugg sauntered onto stage with what appeared to be water, but which the artist later revealed to be gin and tonic, meant to ease the nerves of performing.
As the artist said himself, he played music that his fans wanted to hear. Bugg played “Saffron” (2013), a song that he wrote before he ever even began recording and that did not make it onto any of his studio albums, but there were plenty of fans who knew the lyrics to the little-known hit, which has only been recorded in a live show. The dedicated fans knew the lyrics to even the lesser-known tracks along with crowd favorites like “Two Fingers” (2012) and “Strange Creatures” (2014), which sounded perfect, even with just an acoustic guitar.
Bugg’s set had a strong bent toward ballads and slow hits, which played into his ability on the guitar. Switching guitars for almost every single song, the musician proved he was adept not only as a singer but also as a guitarist. Fans were able to see the well-known licks that they had heard a thousand times on his live albums, which Bugg pulled off tremendously.
The artist did not disappoint with his vocals either, despite admitting to waking up just an hour before the 8 p.m. performance. Bugg is already known for his unique sound, often being compared to greats like Bob Dylan, but his sound quality in the acoustic session was unbelievable. His voice was clear and strong, as one would expect from an artist who knows his songs backward and forward. Often beginning his songs in a soft, tender voice, his quality of sound did not suffer, no matter how booming and emotional he got during the performance.
During certain songs, such as “Simple As This” (2012), which was featured in the film “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014), Bugg emphasized interacting with and scanning his audience. At the same time, the artist became entrenched in the emotion of ballads such as “Broken” (2012), and one could feel the audience pulsing along with the artist’s heartbreaking lyrics and tone. In these moments, the crowd and the artist were alone together, and he would shyly smile, take a sip of his gin and tonic and offer a quick “cheers.”