Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Concert review: Jake Bugg, Auckland Town Hall

Jake Bugg cuts a lonely figure on stage. Photo/Tony Woolliscroft/WireImage
Jake Bugg cuts a lonely figure on stage. Photo/Tony Woolliscroft/WireImage

If you were looking for big screens, stage dives, flashy light displays, major rock 'n' roll statements and humorous between-song banter, well, you were always going to go home disappointed.

Likewise, if you were expecting a shy, subdued bedroom troubadour to take the stage for a set of sad, introspective songs dedicated to loneliness, you'd be wrong on that count too.

That's because Jake Bugg has grown up remarkably since he was last here all of nine months ago, shedding many of the expectations and reputations that have built up around the fast-rising star.

For starters, Bugg was playing an Auckland Town Hall rammed with screaming, dancing fans that numbered at least twice as many as last time.

And, thanks to the addition of last year's rockier, Rick Rubin-produced second album Shangri La, Bugg's setlist has grown in size too, this time whipping through more than 20 songs in a rollicking, rowdy set that ran to an expanded 75 minutes.

But it's Bugg's confidence that's really grown in the time between shows, and from the dust-kicking thriller There's a Beast and We Feed It, Bugg delivered one key moment after another at a blink-and-you'll-miss-them pace.

Like Seen It All's world-weary hooks, Kingpin's back-end grunt, Taste It's hook-filled fun, the night's biggest singalong Two Fingers, and the soaring, soppy encore A Song About Love.

And was it just us or did Bugg's sideburns grow just a little longer during his cover of Neil Young's My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)?

Yes, there were moments that Bugg's wiser-than-his-years persona raised eyebrows, especially when the only-just-20-year-old sung lines like, "I'm older than I'm supposed to be" (Storm Passes Away) and, "I swear to God I've seen it all" (Seen It All) without a trace of irony.

But quibbles were few and far between, especially when Bugg sent chills down the spine during the night's centrepiece Broken, a heart-melting moment delivered with just a single spotlight shining down on the stage's obviously emotional sole occupant.

It showed that Bugg is firmly cast from the old school mould of singer-songwriters: his shows come with little banter and few embellishments, just stunning songs performed from the heart in front of an up-for-it crowd.

Sometimes creating a little bit of magic really is that simple.

Jake Bugg
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Thursday, April 10

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