Jake Bugg in England (Associated Press photo by Jim Ross)
Buzzed-about British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg is as cute as the guys in One Direction. And about the same age. (He’s 19.) But he has more talent than all five 1D guys combined.
That was evident in Bugg’s Twin Cities headline debut Monday night at the sold-out Fine Line Music Café – a too-short 55-minute set (including encore) that was all killer and no filler.
Looking like a young Keith Richards (with better teeth) in a horizontal-striped sweater and popped collar shirt, the soft-spoken, shaggy-haired newcomer played nine songs from his encouraging self-titled 2012 debut disc, a few new numbers and a Neil Young cover.
On record, Bugg suggests a young Bob Dylan. In concert, he was more like a young John Fogerty, with an intense, passionate and often loud voice. Manifesting all the stage presence of the stoic George Harrison, Bugg demonstrated a Beatles-like love for American music – from surf rock to rockabilly --- plus a taste for well-articulated Donovan-esque jangly folk-pop.
Bugg’s songs had more drive live than on record. Backed by a bassist and drummer, the singer/guitarist showed a strong sense of dynamics, a flair for musical and lyrical economy and an ability to get lost in his songs. He was sincere without ever being sappy. And he’s a pretty nifty guitarist, though his solos were strikingly concise.
Unlike other fairly quiet shows at the Fine Line where the trendies are just happy to be there and chat during the performance, the crowd listened intently, even during the trio of solo acoustic numbers featuring the brand new “A Song About Love” and the Cure-like “Broken.” Other highlights included the twangy stomp “Taste It” and “Lightning Bolt” with its hiccup-y beat.
A 20-something club-goer behind me summed up the sentiment about Bugg’s performance when she said to her female friend: “I want to tell everyone who loves Justin Bieber: [Bleep] Justin Bieber and listen to Jake Bugg.”
Here is Bugg’s set list from the Fine Line:
Fire/ Kentucky/ Trouble Town/ Seen It All/ Simple As This/ Me and You/ Slumville Sunrise/ acoustic solo Country Song/ A Song About Love/ Broken/ band returns: Two Fingers/ Taste It/ Kingpin ENCORE My My, Hey Hey (Neil Young)/ Lightning Bolt