Three years ago, Dad put a CD into the car disc player and out roared a voice that twisted and turned every vowel it sang, spitting out razor-sharp consonants with a sort of respect and disgust at the same time. I recoiled, and jokily derided my Dad for enjoying such unpalatable sounds.
Yet half an hour later I sneaked the album up to my room, and listened again and again to the songs I had been rude about minutes before. I read the CD booklet along with the music, deciphering these words-that-weren’t-really-words.
A quick google, and I discovered that he was Jake Bugg; a 20 year old singer-songwriter from Nottingham who had dropped out of school and had been discovered at Glastonbury on the BBC Introducing Stage. I was listening to his second album and rapidly discovering that it was really rather good. I sheepishly confessed my drastic change of opinion to Dad.
I adored (and still do) the honesty of his songs. They represented him; all of him. The heavy drums and bitter lyrics of tracks like ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘Two Fingers’ contrast the soaring, effortless melodies and bittersweet undertones of ‘A Song About Love’ and ‘Pine Trees’. The gradual build-up and then shattering of sound in ‘Simple Pleasures’ feels desperately real (because life halfway between child and adult never follows the same volume). The blues of injustice shining through ‘Trouble Town’ and ‘Two Fingers’.
If you’ve skipped that last paragraph; I don’t blame you. I’m far too obsessed with Jake Bugg’s songs to mention them without using hundreds of pretentious intensifiers. In short; he says it better than I will ever do! But perhaps give them a listen (or two – to avoid making my mistake of a quick judgement).
Fast-forward to last night, and my best friend Emma and I, along with our Dads, went to see him at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. It was my first ever concert, and he not only lived up to, but surpassed all my expectations.
I loved all the songs he sang from his third album, but it was the tracks he returned to from three years ago that were my favourites. Three years on, he sang them with a new maturity, and gave them new meaning. These songs became less music and more snapshots of an earlier moment; almost a releasing of the emotion he had earlier invested in them. I felt the release too, and just as I have changed since that first listen in the car, so have his songs changed for me. So last night was magical; I wasn’t just watching a good singer perform, I was sharing his and mine and the whole room’s feelings. The world’s emotion that he had managed to put into words. Different experiences, but the same, universal, feelings.
We’d arrived for the gig an hour early, and had ended up only three rows from the front. So maybe it wasn’t just our imagination that he was looking at me and Emma most of the time. Maybe he felt the same as us when we half-sung, half-shouted his lyrics back to him in a state of mad elation. And maybe, when I screamed a well-timed ‘Marry me!’ at the end of a song, I didn’t just dream up his reply of ‘Er no, but thank you!’
Actually thank you, Jake Bugg, for letting me down so gently. Your guitar-playing was excellent, your singing was even better, but your intense and exhilarating authenticity made my first ever concert one I will never forget.
Sorry if the pictures are a little blurry – they were taken on the night 🙂 Who’s your favourite singer?