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Live Review: Jake Bugg @ Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (25/11/17)

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On the closing night of his solo acoustic tour, Jake Bugg delivered a flawless set to a packed out Royal Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool.

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It takes more than a patch of hail and harsh winds to dampen the spirits of a Liverpool crowd, and despite the appalling weather thrashing around outside, there was a sense of buzzing anticipation of something special in the moments leading up to Jake Bugg's entrance onto the stage.

The crowd filled their seats, with both pints of lager and glasses of Prosecco in hand, as support acts - Jade Bird and Georgie - both gave fun, confident opening sets. Both artists knew how to work the room, matching the rising energy of the eagerly awaiting fans. 

Given the Philharmonic stage is big enough to cater for a large theatre performance, it was surprising to see just a small spot in the centre allocated for the artists. The space illuminated by just five lights creating a circle shaped performance area, kept an element of intimacy in the show, despite the large swarms of gig-goers entering the venue and the spacious stage leading on for what seemed like miles all sides of the performers.

If the sheer size of the venue was enough to dent even Jake Bugg's confidence, and after a couple of songs he did confess to being "a little nervous tonight, there's been so much musical talent come from this city...I just want to live up to the expectation", he did little to show it. His entrance was met with raucous screams and thunderous applause, but in typical Jake Bugg fashion he didn't stop to lap it up, breaking into the first few bars of 'Hearts That Strain' just seconds after taking his seat centre stage.

He carries on, slipping almost straight away into another track of his recently released fourth album, 'How Soon The Dawn', followed by one his first ever released songs 'Saffron'. The performances are mesmerising. The audience are transfixed on him, and it doesn't take long for everyone to realise they're in for a treat. 

One of the defining points of the evening comes next as Bugg announces he's going to play, "a little song called Slide". His vocals echo round the hall, few audience members try to sing along before retiring back and taking in the experience. Bugg's vocal control is flawless, as he toys with the hooks, switching up tempo and volume. 

Audience engagement seems to be something that Bugg has really improved on. Responding to calls for the classics that brought him to fame, he says with a smile on his face, "look I'll call the shots tonight, okay", which is met with more applause of appreciation, before he reassures the crowd with, "I will get round to playing all the ones you want to hear, but I'd like to play some of my new ones too if that's alright with you guys."

The next treat came in the form of a cover of Danny O'Keefe's 'Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues'. Bugg let his love of country music come to light in his latest record, so it was refreshing to see him continue to fuel this passion by covering someone else's country song. With a wry expression on his face, he tells us, "I'm going to do a cover now. I don't know about you, but I get a bit tired of Jake Bugg songs", before delivering a cover scarily, but brilliantly, reminiscent of the original.

The setlist was a real variety of everything the 23-year old has ever written. Tracks from all four albums were featured, including more upbeat performances of 'There's a Beast And We All Feed It' from 2013's Shangri La, and a short, but sweet, recital of 'Country Song' from his self-titled debut record.

After treating the crowd to some more of his newer work, in the form of 'Southern Rain', 'In The Event Of My Demise' and 'Waiting', he finally stands from his perch, bashfully declaring "I'm gonna stand up for these last few ones, how does that sound?". He also takes the time to thank the spirited audience for ending the tour in the best way possible, "you've been honestly fantastic tonight, and I can't have done this without all of you so thank you so much."

By this point many of the crowd are out of their seats too, ready and excited for the closing few numbers. There was communal knowledge that the most well-known songs were soon to come. The first was an excellent rendition of 'Seen It All', which brings the biggest response from the crowd so far.

Bugg closes the gig with 'Two Fingers' and 'Lightning Bolt', his finale is met with wide admiration from everyone in the venue. Large groups of fans seated nearer the front get up to shake his hand and congratulate him, as others watch with jealously as they can only stand and applause from the back. 

This tour marks something of a milestone in Jake Bugg's short career. At just 23- years old, the Nottingham born singer has dropped four different, but equally accomplished albums, all acting as their own chapter or entity in his life, which came together with nothing but grace in the Philharmonic on Saturday night. Nothing sounded out of place, and even without the band he usually plays with, he didn't look out of place either. He was right when he said so much musical talent has come out of Liverpool, and after that performance there'll always be a place for him here in the future. 

With nothing but his guitar, his sensational vocals and a gin & tonic in hand, he owned the stage, something that can take solo artists years to master. The future will be bright for Jake Bugg, growing maturity has allowed him to dominate the seat he positioned himself in, toying with crowd's emotions as he switched from blues-rock to ballad. Previous records suggest it won't be too long before he has another album ready for us, with an accompanying tour to coincide. My one piece of advice: go and see him. You won't regret it. 

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