The First Direct Arena was set for an incredible night of live music with festival favourite Jake Bugg headlining the show, in conjunction with the celebration of the venues first birthday and the 25th anniversary of the bank. So the night promised to deliver a unique blend of celebration and sensational music, and that it did, with two support acts both bringing something unique and equally captivating to the arena. And of course Mr Bugg provided a ground breaking performance that was a true testament as to why he has previously been nominated for a World Music Award for Best Live Act, as he really does set an example for artists everywhere on how to perform live like an absolute Legend, which he no doubt will become.
The first band on to the stage was Leeds based four piece Skinny Living who completely blew me away. If you are not clued up on these guys, then you would have had no idea that they are an unsigned band, who before that night had only played gigs with a record of up to 2,000 people, and all of a sudden they were giving a first class performance to a sold out arena of up to 11,000.
I haven’t heard modern music like theirs that holds a real vintage, classic style sound so authentic and raw and bursting with energy, since Jake Bugg came on the scene, so they really were a perfect act to warm up the show. These young guys also launched their brand new single “Mother Earth” at the gig, which made me feel like I had gone back in time and I was watching the gig in black and white, and they just filled the surprisingly intimate arena with such a feel good atmosphere.
What is so great about Skinny Living’s music is that every song is relateable to an audience and that provided a real personal touch to their set. These guys also have the song writing ability to create music with variety that still carries through a distinct sound which makes their music uniquely their own but yet never boring. The way in which Skinny Living perform, act and present themselves show true promise of a band that are destined to reach new levels, and I seriously hope they do, as I cannot wait to hear more of their unique and entertaining sound!
Next on to the stage were fast emerging Irish folk-pop duo Hudson Taylor, also known as brothers Harry and Alfie, who started off busking in the streets of Dublin. Hudson Taylor was formed in 2011 and have already established themselves quite the fan base, which appeared clear, by the incredibly warm welcome they received from the audience. That or they just gave a performance of true professionals, either way, they left the stage that night with thousands more fans.
Their set begun with numerous acoustic guitars spreading their spine tingling riffs and layers all over the venue, filling the room with a true sense of presence whilst the young brothers owned the stage and performed like a headline act. Harry and Alfie have an abundance of charm and charisma that was showcased that night, not only in their music but by their natural performing qualities. This was demonstrated no where more crystal clear than when they performed recently released single “Chasing Rubies”, which is an absolutely beautiful song that grew even more spectacular live, as the emotion became more real, and the rawness of the boys’ voices was overwhelming and utterly captivating.
When the guys performed their song “Weapons”, the echoing chants in the chorus gave me goosebumps and had me and the entire audience completely enchanted, and brought a real sentimental atmosphere to the arena, one of which I was only expecting to happen when Jake Bugg performed. Hudson Taylor really have stepped out of the stereotypical indie band and have brought a completely unique sound, that is almost genre defying whilst still remaining classic. Their performance really did set a standard, of one you do not usually expect from a support act, garnering a full house of appreciation from the audience close to the level Mr Bugg was due to receive.
And last to grace the stage was the man of the moment, the winner of the UK Festival Award for Best Breakthrough Act and a list more, the one and only Jake Bugg. Jake appeared on stage and without saying a word, he got straight into his first track which was “Messed Up Kids”, a song off his second album Shangri La that was released in November last year. Jake has an effortlessly cool (could be perceived as arrogant) way about him, that I personally lap up, in the same way I did with the likes of the Gallaghers and Alex Turner.
It makes them seem untouchable and Jake has that same attitude and just embodies a Superstar without it coming across as a cliché, it is simply just cool and exhilarating to watch. That is simply talking about how his attitude takes his whole performance to new heights, and I haven’t even mentioned his musical abilities yet, which quickly summed up was vocally perfect, hair raising and one of the best live performances I have ever seen.
Jake’s voice live was better than perfect as he is one of those rare talents that actually sounds better live, because his voice is filled with more emotion and the rawness of the open arena just empowers the raspy, old town style of his tone. The next song on the agenda was a real fan favourite “Seen It All”, which was the sixth single to be released from his self titled debut album, and this was when I really felt the audience come alive, and the room turned in to thousands of Jake Bugg impersonators.
There were a few beautiful and surreal moments though, throughout Jake’s set, that really did bring the arena to a silence. These blissful moments happened on songs such as “Country Song”, “This Is A Song About Love” and on his second to last song of the night and one of my all time favourites, the stunning single “Broken”. I have to admit when Jake poured his heart into every word and every hypnotic note from the acoustic style he performed “Broken”, it brought tears to my eyes, because witnessing that song live was one of those indescribable moments where you just get captured by the song and seem to forget everything else around you, and that’s when it really pulls at your emotions, which is something Jake did so naturally.
The words from that song soared throughout my head for the rest of the night –
“have become all I lost and all I hoped for / But I must carry on / Always one, never broken”
I mean not only has Jake got one of the best voices in music right now but the lyrics of his songs are nothing short of poetic masterpieces, and there is no place you hear the lyrics more clear than in a live gig, as you get taken on a journey with the performer and you hear every word as if its directed straight at you. There is no other or better word to describe Jake Bugg’s set other then legendary.
The final song of the night was one of his most famous singles, the uplifting “Lightening Bolt”, which once again sent a shock of energy and somewhat chaos throughout the audience, which of course is what you want the end result to be from a live show. This song really highlighted Jakes unique blend of retro folk weaved with blistering infusions of contemporary rock riffs, that was a theme occurring throughout each act previous, but no where was it more aspirational and effortlessly achieved than in Jake’s set.
When Jakes set came to an end, I was inflated with a sense of achievement, for some reason having seen him live felt like something I could tick off my bucket list as it has been something I have wanted to do since I first heard him on the radio a few years ago. It was everything you want from a gig, it was bursting with unique, mind seducing talent that leaves your stomach circling with butterflies and overflowing with energy and just a real self contentment. I have to say Jake Bugg’s third studio album cannot come soon enough, and here’s to hoping another UK tour is close behind.