Up Against Coldplay, Jake Bugg’s Glastonbury Set Seemed Like The Work Of A Man Defeated

The last time Jake Bugg was at Glastonbury, back in 2014, he headlined the Other Stage; tonight, he’s closing the John Peel Stage, and if the demotion wasn’t disheartening enough, the sight of a half-empty tent probably does the trick. “I appreciate you coming out when you could have been watching Coldplay,” Bugg tells the crowd at one point, “or Earth, Wind & Fire, which is what I’d rather be seeing.”

To be fair, it’s not hard to see why topping the weekend off with a Jake Bugg show wasn’t at the top of more people’s Glasto to-do list: the 22 year-old sometimes strikes you as a walking anticlimax, a man so unengaging he bores even himself. After opening with the slow acoustic blues of ‘Strange Creatures’ and ‘On My One’, you feel the crowd starting to get restless; it’s not until a plodding, perfunctory run-through of ‘Two Fingers’ that this set starts to develop any sort of momentum.

The setlist draws heavily from Bugg’s recently-released third album, but as the show draws on, it becomes clear that those songs don’t quite connect with audiences in the same manner as, say, ‘Taste It’ or ‘Seen It All’. It’s unfortunate, because while ‘On My One’ contains its share of clunkers – Bugg never sounds so prosaic and pedestrian as he does on ‘Bitter Salt’ when he asks “Shall we go to the pictures, darling? Shall we go see what’s on?” with all the urgency of a man whose Cineworld app isn’t working – there are a few gems there, too. The melancholic, ’70s-flavoured soul of ‘Never Wanna Dance’ doesn’t get much of a reaction from the crowd, but it’s one of the record’s more impressive moments; likewise, ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’ is a yearning, countrified ballad of the sort he’s always had an uncanny knack for. In the end, however, it’s hard to escape the feeling that while Jake Bugg might have recast himself as a man on his one, it’s proving a lonlier road than he might have liked.

Coldplay on headlining Glastonbury: “We’ll come back until they beg us not to”