Concert Review: Jake Bugg – Metropolis, Montreal, January 12 2014

This was Jake Bugg’s 3rd Montreal show in 6 months: he played the Osheaga Festival last August, then played a sold out show at the Corona Theatre in September (about 1000 seats) and now sold out the 2200 seater for another headline gig, this time promoting his latest album Shangri La.

Opening the show was Brooklyn-based The Skins, who wowed the crowd with their funk-rock inspired music that echoes back to the 60’s and 70’s. Despite being aged between 15 and 21 (!), the musicians (including 3 siblings) play like seasoned veterans, and their material is top notch, with great arrangements. Highlight was singer Bayli McKeithan, whose voice simultaneously recalls Janis Joplin and Beyonce. Great talented band that we’ll hear more of. I’m sure they won a lot of fans tonight. Check out their music on Bandcamp!


[bandcamp width=350 height=555 album=488614563 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5]

They were followed by Albert Hammond Jr, of the band The Strokes. His set seemed well appreciated by the crowd, but to me he was a let down after The Skins. His self-deprecating attitude as a leader wasn’t very engaging, and they just seemed to chain song after song without much thought of creating a concert flow. The material was good although I often felt that with different arrangements he could have huge hits on his hands. One song had a MONSTER riff at the end that’s just used as a throwaway to lead to the end… he should have written the next big arena hit with it!

19 year old Jake Bugg took to the stage to the sound of Robert Johnson’s Crossroad Blues, in sync with his vintage approach to music. I guess one’s appreciation of Bugg’s music hinges on whether or not you appreciate his nasal tonal, which recalls voices like Neil Young, Bob Dylan or Tom Petty. Obviously the crowd had no issue with that, as every new song was welcomed enthusiastically. (He seems to be popular with the ladies too!)

Backed by a bass player, a drummer and his own guitar (acoustic or electric), Bugg’s voice rang clear  as he raced through his set. No chit chat, no wasted time, just one great tune after another. 1 hour after the start of his performance, he left the stage for a short encore break which he wisely used to bring the pace down and come back with a slower song. And just when you thought he was done, ready to close with his first hit Lightning Bolt, he surprised the crowd with a fantastic version of Neil Young’s My My, Hey Hey. And I do mean fantastic. If he ever records that, I’ll never listen to Young’s version again. It’s that good.

Bugg was able to pull off delicate songs he sang solo with his acoustic guitar without any problem, and was just as comfortable with more energetic rocking numbers. This 19 year old already plays like a pro, and writes songs that show maturity much beyond his age (as a reference, he is one day older than Justin Bieber). The Jake Bugg recipe seems to be made of equal parts Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Liam Gallagher, but he still manages to find his own voice. It’ll be interesting to see what’s the next step in his career; in the roughly 15 months since his debut album, he’s already released a followup and is playing to bigger and bigger crowds. This kid seems destined for great things.

Bugg’s show was a great no-frills event, that was all about great songs. Watch out for this guy.


  • There’s a Beast and We All Feed It
  • Trouble Town
  • Seen It All
  • Simple as This
  • Storm Passes Away
  • Two Fingers
  • Messed Up Kids
  • Ballad of Mr Jones
  • Pine Trees
  • Broken
  • Simple Pleasures
  • Green Man
  • Kingpin
  • Taste It
  • Slumville Sunrise
  • What Doesn’t Kill You


  • A Song About Love
  • My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) (Neil Young cover)
  • Lightning Bolt
Jean-Frederic Vachon
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