Gig Review and Photography by Mark Loraine

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Setting a shed alight… a night at Doncaster Dome with Jake Bugg. Don’t worry, this is not about physically setting fire to the garden shed. It’s about music – and great music at that. As is often the case with venues today, Doncaster Dome is a bit of a shed… a nice shed with bars and toilets, but a shed never the less! Tonight however that shed was set alight and set alight in great style by not just one, but three class acts.

I arrived to catch the last three songs from The Family Rain and I was glad I did. The tremendous driving guitars and undercover bluesy riffs really set the opener for the evening. As a “one to watch” these guys are really fitting of the accolade… will be trying to catch their full set soon myself.

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It always surprises me at gigs how the audience are made up and tonight the range was amazing… from very small children (accompanied thankfully), to much, much older people who probably should, and usually do, know better on a Saturday night.

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To say Jake Bugg’s reputation goes before him is truly an under statement. For an artist that has released just one album, he managed to draw the biggest crowd I have ever seen in this venue, in fact Doncaster had managed to sell out twice, as he is back to play here the following Saturday as well (9th). Of course everyone there had turned up to see JB and of course they wanted to get to the point where the man himself was on stage, so when a woman with a banjo and a beardy bloke with one bass drum and a guitar arrived on stage, it didn’t bode well for me.

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Thankfully I needn’t have worried as HoneyHoney mesmerised, tantalised and got the whole place tapping their feet within minutes of taking the stage. Offering a remarkable selection of true Americana, this couple now resident in Nashville TN, captivated the audience in a way I never expected. To say they were fabulous would not do them justice. They played a selection of songs from their Billy Jack album along with other up-beat country-ish tunes and by the end of their all too short set they had the crowd at the Doncaster Dome feeling more like they were at a Saturday night Hoe Down than in the aforementioned shed in South Yorkshire.

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So was the crowd ready? Had they been “warmed up”? well of course they had… The buzz surrounding Jake Bugg has been intense since he first appeared on the musical landscape just over a year or so ago. Much has been made of his relatively young age – he is 19 – and the fact that he sings and plays more like someone three times his age, and yes, if you turned your back to the stage at a Jake Bugg gig you could be forgiven for thinking you where listening to Johnny Cash or indeed Bob Dylan in places. This obsession with his age is however a diversion, so what if he is 19, he is a truly fabulous songsmith and deserves a place in his own right among the aforementioned old school.

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As soon as the man himself arrives on stage, the crowd really kick into gear and, fuelled by a spontaneous sing-along to the inspired use of “Champagne Supernova” as the last track of the interval music, JB gets a huge and genuine reception.

To say Jake Bugg is a great songwriter and along with that a great singer is a given. To say he puts on flamboyant show would however be over-icing the cake. What he does do however is provide the crowd with a solid chunk of Jake Bugg, pared down, raw and with no frills. He rarely speaks between songs, in fact he doesn’t even pause much to be honest. This doesn’t matter though as what he has to say, he says with the music and the lyrics from his wonderfully crafted songs.

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Starting the set with “There’s a Beast and We all Feed It” the opening track of his new album “Shangri La” he quickly antidotes the new material with a dose of familiar territory in the form of “Trouble Town” which it has to be said is one of my personal favourites.

From that point in the set is a mix of old, if you can call last year “Old”, and new in the form of various tracks from the Shangri-La album, culminating in his massive crowd pleaser “Lightening Bolt” which closes the show. In between all of this he does vary the pace considerably, pausing halfway through the set to apologise for playing a few acoustic songs – an apology he didn’t need to make as this particular part of the set was great and even managed to stun the increasingly party minded crowd into a relative stillness.

For me the highlights of the show mostly came from the older material; “Broken” being a truly great song, delivered tonight with real pathos and style and as I mentioned previously “Trouble Town” which provides a country and western feel with a very English bent.

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From the new album I really liked “Messed Up Kids” and “Pine Trees”. The penultimate song of the main set was “Slumville Sunrise” which is the new single and on the basis of hearing his new stuff live, I reckon the new album will be as huge as the first when it is released on the 18th November. By the way, catch the surreal video for the new single on Jake’s site. Directed by Shane Meadows it really is something to behold.

Finally and just before the end of the show, Mr Jake Bugg delivered the whammy as far as I was concerned when he ably performed a cover of My My, Hey Hey by Neil Young. I’m a huge fan of Mr Young and I have to say it when I heard this it suddenly dawned on me who JB reminded me of most – a true accolade indeed!

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I opened this review by talking about setting a shed alight and indeed Jake Bugg, HoneyHoney and The Family Rain certainly managed to do that in Doncaster tonight. If you do get chance to see any of the acts on this bill then please do… I for one am sure you will enjoy the experience immensely.

Jake Bugg Setlist:

There’s a Beast and We All Feed It / Trouble Town
 / Seen It All
 / Simple as This
 / Storm Passes Way
 / Two Fingers
 / Messed Up Kids
 / Ballad of Mr Jones
 / Country Song
 / Pine Trees
 / Song About Love
 / Slide / Green Man
 / Kingpin
 / Taste It
 / Slumville Sunrise
 / What Doesn’t Kill You
Encore: Broken
 / My My, Hey Hey (Into the Black) Neil Young cover
 / Lightning Bolt

Jake Bugg’s new album Shangri-La released on the 18th November 2013 and available for pre-order now.

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