photos: Emma Richardson
The sole opening act of the evening was local lass Georgie. Sauntering on stage, guitar and pint in hand, and looking tres cool wearing her trademark leather jacket and stripy t-shirt combo, Georgie showed no sign of nerves whatsoever in front of her home crowd. The poise and ease she exhibited on stage is clearly the result of years spent on the 'circuit', having started gigged around Mansfield when she was but a whippersnapper of just fourteen. Now aged twenty, she is clearly an artist hitting her stride.
A woman of few words, a quick “Hi, I'm Georgie” and she was off. Given that it was only just gone 7pm, she had already attracted a decent sized crowd, who were well receptive to her opening number. Crowd numbers swelled throughout the set, and the applause rose in volume with every song. Got to love her strategy for keeping her vocal chords lubricated – a sip of beer between songs from the pint glass attached to her mic stand.
Her voice and vocal delivery is pitched somewhere between a less gravelly Janis Joplin and a slightly more husky, less sugary, Nancy Sinatra, with definite undertones of Stevie Nicks coming through in places to deliver soulful lyrics coupled to catchy melodies. Georgie finished up her set with new single Company of Thieves, which has a striking retro vibe.
As her set drew to a close, the audience were more than warmed up for the evening’s main attraction. To a chorus of manly cheers that were almost drowned out by the whistling and screams of the many women in the audience - seemingly all vying for the front row - Jake Bugg made his move on to the stage. Armed with nothing but his acoustic guitar, lit by a solitary strobe, and teasing the crowd with a gentle blues riff, Jake opened the show with On my One. A gentle acoustic start to the evening was continued with Strange Creatures, The Love We're Hoping For and Simple as This before things became electrified.
A quick word with the crowd, “Good evening, Nottingham”, Jake is also one to let his music the talking. The first song with added voltage was crowd-pleaser Two Fingers, which – given the decibel level of the audience singing back - apparently everyone in Rock City knew all the words to. The electric guitar remained on stage as Jake ploughed through the rest of his set. The crowd bopped up and down to the music slightly more sedately than expected, but there were a number of arms and hands in the air consistently. At one point, a member of the road staff dashed on stage to remove what turned out to be a black lacy bra from on top of one of the effects pedals at Jake's feet. A slightly comedic moment as one wonders how many ladies undergarments Jake has amassed over the last few years. Even from those old enough to know better, there were cries of “I love you, Jake” from various females throughout the course of the evening.
The upbeat Trouble Town injected the crowd with some Friday feeling, and suddenly Rock City was partying like it's 1999. The playful mood continued with Put out the Fireand Kingpin, which got a large round of applause. Mojo fully engaged, there was now a small but dedicated hive of pogoing just behind the barrier. This, however, may have proved too much for one girl who suddenly broke down in tears at the front and had to be deftly removed by a security guard, plucking her out of the crowd like some weird human hook-a-duck - perhaps one for the next Goose Fair? Slumville Sunrise saw not one, but two young gents hoisted to the shoulders of their friends; security point at them in an attempt subdue their uprising, but fail, as arms around each other they sing note-perfectly everyone's favourite ditty of daybreak over Clifton.
A local boy done good, Jake fully held the attention of the audience through the set; even when the pace of the songs slowed at times, the punters remain enraptured by a young man with skill and retrospection beyond his years. While Jake's influences shine through his music, he is definitely starting to cut his own sound, perhaps in part due to having worked with world leading producers, including Rick Rubin, to encourage him to push his boundaries and flourish as an artist. There's a real beat in Gimme the Love, which is almost Stone Roses-esque (think of the top-end of Begging You and you're not close to the feeling of the track). As a total juxtaposition, the mood changes completely with the penultimate track, becoming deep and reflective during the heartfelt 'Broken. As this finishes, Jake introduces his band, including Jack the drummer, another Nottingham lad.
Closing the evening was “that song” from the 2012 Olympics, Lightning Bolt, of which Jake must surely still be rolling in the PRS royalties, as the BBC were seemingly unable to show any footage of Jamaica's finest sprinter without this song providing the soundtrack. All in a good gig; Jake seemed a bit more at home in the more intimate setting of Rock City than the cavernous Arena where he last played in Notts. It will be fun to watch his next move.
Jake Bugg played Rock City on Friday 28 October 2016