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Review: Jake Bugg at Kessler Theater

Posted 1:26pm on Sunday, Oct. 06, 2013

He writes like Dylan, words laced with insight beyond his years.

He strums like Cash, his hand briskly working six strings like a locomotive.

He sings like a Gallagher, forceful and fulsome, with his British roots evident every time he lays into a vowel.

Yet, Jake Bugg is his own man, as he demonstrated Saturday night during his sold-out show at the Kessler Theater.

Bugg is just 19 years old, but carries himself like someone who has Seen It All, as he sings in the song of the same name.

The Nottingham, England native, born Jake Kennedy, synthesizes classic and contemporary influences into something that feels unique, a task not as easy as it sounds.

Like Adele before him, Bugg folds the familiar into fresh material that fits snugly in the 21st century, even as it harks back to a time the singer-songwriter can only know of secondhand.

As quicksilver displays of budding stardom go, Bugg’s was downright cozy, as he blithely ignored the rowdier elements in the Kessler audience and made music best heard on a night when the fall season’s first cold snap sank its teeth into the region.

Backed by nothing more than a bassist and a drummer, Bugg knocked out a frequently electrifying 65-minute set, which brought his current U.S. tour to a close.

Bugg aired out most of his superb self-titled debut — the opening one-two punch of Fire and Trouble Town was a terrific scene setter — and worked in three new songs, from his forthcoming sophomore LP, Shangri La, produced by heavyweight Rick Rubin and due out in January. (One of these, the mesmerizing Song About Love, was enough to make your heart catch in your throat.)

Whether he was pining for a lost love (his shattering Broken was rendered alone on an acoustic guitar to open the encore) or exulting in leaving behind his past ( Two Fingers, which seems as close as anything to a mission statement as Bugg’s recorded so far), the Brit was, simply put, stunning.

On its face, the music he’s making isn’t particularly remarkable — ragged rock tinged with a little folk, pop and country — but it’s the presentation that sticks with you long after the lights have come up.

Those crammed into the Kessler were party to something that doesn’t happen too often in Dallas — maybe My Morning Jacket’s 2008 show at the then-Palladium Ballroom, and definitely Adele’s 2009 performance at the Granada Theater — which is a near-instant classic turn on an area stage by an artist unquestionably bound for stardom.

It’s the rare convergence of the right room, the right artist and the right moment in a career, where everything that comes afterward will be bigger, more broad and a little less personal. Like those musicians Bugg so effortlessly evokes, he stands on the cusp of greatness, a career conducted in the stratosphere.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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