A dreary fog hung over the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, as music fans trekked through the slick sidewalks and drizzle. On a side street between luxury car dealerships stood the warehouse facade of Terminal 5. Upon entering the doors for the sold-out pairing of Jake Bugg and Albert Hammond Jr., however, the atmosphere proved quite different. Last Friday, the stage welcomed an industry veteran who effortlessly ripped through a set, and a relative newcomer looking to spring to something more. We saved you a spot in the pit; come on in.
Jake Bugg at Terminal 5, NYC
Winter coats were a necessity out in the rain, but inside the packed venue they were a nuisance slung over damp shoulders. Many concert-goers were treated to a double-take as they walked by the merch table to see the actor Adrian Grenier (who will be called Vincent Chase by drunken fans for the rest of his life) casually selling, well, merch. He wore a shirt with the first-openers name, “The Skins,” emblazoned in green, and he was actually a pretty helpful salesman.
The main spread of Terminal 5 resembled the atmosphere of a bar in midtown set to live music, and from the onset, it was clear this would be a rowdy and sizable crowd. With a celebrity sighting already in tow, it was hard not to scan the silhouetted faces of the upper-tier VIP, given the reputation of The Strokes guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr. Yet, before long, the lights dimmed, bathing the venue in inky black.
Albert Hammond Jr. and his guitar-heavy backing band lept out on-stage, and dove right in to his most recent single, “St. Justice.” The song sounded even more rambunctious live than on the grooves of last year’s EP, AHJ. As expected, the artist’s live show is a tribute to the six-string instrument we all know and love, as Hammond was backed by a rhythm guitar and one he shared lead with. The rhythm section kept everything moving, and once AHJ ripped into a solo, the crowd instantly responded. He wore his electric high, letting it rest on his chest as he bent strings and stretched vibratos fluidly.
As he shielded his eyes from the house lights (which he felt were raised too soon in the set), Hammond asked the crowd if they were ready for “you know who.” Though it garnered an enthusiastic response, it’s certainly possible he just forgot the headliners name; Albert plays a “no-bullshit” set, and after brief chatter he slammed right back into the screeching riff of “Cooker Ship.” He belted out raspy vocals over sun-drenched rock throughout, and really warmed the crowd up for what came next.
Around 10 PM, Jake Bugg, a fresh-faced British 19 year old, took the stage. Contrary to the low-key lighting of Hammond Jr., Bugg’s stage set-up proclaimed his name in huge silver letters. He took center stage grasping a mahogany-toned acoustic, with drums and bass on either side of him; the crowd roared while he strummed through “There’s A Beast and We All Feed It.” It was clear they had gathered en masse mainly for the folk-rock upstart.
Everything about Bugg’s presentation contrasted his young age―bright lights, a long set, and a stack of vintage amps forming a wall behind him. It was clear that this guy has the backing of major industry players, which makes sense, considering his last album, Sangri La, was made with Rick Rubin at his recording studio of the same name. Bugg really possesses that “next big thing” feel.
His music, though, recalls something more simple, and Bugg’s older, more raw material produced the loudest crowd response of all. When he played his debut’s highlight, “Two Fingers,” fans erupted into a rousing sing-along. As the lights drowned the whole venue in bright yellow, and Bugg bobbed his mop-top haircut through the fog, the young artist had clearly connected with the sold-out crowd. There was no doubt as to why he’s attracted the attention of talent scouts.
As the set went on, it felt as though people were still funneling into Terminal 5. All 3 floors of the venue were packed tight, and between the aforesaid winter coats, the rain outside, and the accumulating drinks being served, it effectively became a sauna. The humidity gathered in a cloud over the fans, dripping with dewy moisture. Feet dangled from the upper balcony, as fans chose to sit on the edge.
At about this time, Bugg’s rhythm section left the stage, leaving him alone with an acoustic guitar; after all, these were his roots. The idea of stripping the set down was great in theory, but the crowd was a little too riled up at this point, and they continued to talk loudly throughout the breakdown. Perhaps, this portion was better suited for a small club in Greenwhich Village ‒ the same kind that Bob Dylan once called home ‒ as opposed to Terminal 5.
Afterwards, Jake Bugg returned to the electric guitar, as the set eventually culminated into a two-song encore. The roar of the crowd returned, and as he played the no-brainer last song of “Lightning Bolt,” he even let loose and jammed a little bit. Though Bugg is mostly stoic on-stage, it was clear the crowd adoration meant a lot to him. As he left the stage, the question occurred to me: if he could sell-out a show like this at age 19, what would 20 bring?
Atmosphere: Friday in NYC…need we say more?
Crowd / Artist Interaction: A few in-your-face guitar solos; murmurs in a British accent.
Sound: Loud songs were fun and vibrant. Acoustic takes–a bit too soft.
Musicianship: Solid vocals. A tour-de-force of guitars.
Performance Style: Sing-along friendly and summer festival ready.
Article by Nicolas White