February 20 2014
Pictures by David Baird
There is a line in Storm Passes Away, the final track on Jake Bugg's second album, Shangri La, that sums up what a lot of us have been thinking.
"They keep telling me that I'm older than I'm supposed to be," sings the 19-year-old, stood in front of 9,000 people in the city's largest venue, his latest achievement in a two year career that includes two hit albums, tours with Noel Gallagher (a mate who he texts music queries to), a show with the Stone Roses, another with the Rolling Stones, US TV appearances, a worldwide fan base as far as Japan and South America, award nominations, a million record sales... and then some.
It's hard to believe he is still a teenager, from Clifton, who four years ago was playing open mic nights for free at the Maze and the Rescue Rooms.
After tonight's gig Wollaton actress Vicky McClure, currently starring in the BBC drama Line of Duty, who appeared in Jake's video for Two Fingers, admitted she was mouth agape for much of it. "He was incredible. I can't believe how good he was up there on that stage. And so young..."
That older-than-his-years songwriting attracts the broadest fan base I've seen at any gig. There are kids here, some as young as six. One mum at the bar said her three-year-old is a big fan and sings along to the words of his songs in the car. One imagines she skips past Two Fingers on the CD player - a toddler singing "skin up a fat one" at nursery wouldn't go down well.
There are the Mod cropped middle-aged blokes who miss Oasis. And even granddads who just appreciate classic songwriting that they first fell in love with during the Sixties.
Jake's music is drawn from that decade's folk, psychedelia, garage rock and pop but also the Seventies for country and even punk.
But it's back further still for the intro music, an old blues number accompanying the dimmed lights before he appears with a four-piece band and rips into Shangri La's opening track There's A Beast Inside And We All Feed It, before treating the crowd to their first singalong; Trouble Town, the early single about growing up in "speedbump city".
The lights from a sea of phones illuminate the thousands standing on the arena floor, who sing every word to Seen It All, another track from his million-selling self-titled debut.
He's in black, of course, but it's a suit jacket rather than leather, maybe smartening up because mum, dad and grandparents are there.
He does country rocker Me And You then another homegrown anthem, Two Fingers, about his escape from a Nottingham council estate.
No-one begrudges that. The boy done good.
It's half-an-hour before the acoustic is replaced by one of his two £20k vintage electric guitars, as the jacket comes off to reveal the uniform Fred Perry shirt, collars up.
Messed Up Kids, Kingpin, Slumville Sunrise, Taste It, What Doesn't Kill You... they're the rockier side of Jake, prompting a spray of beer and old school moshing in the middle of the floor.
But then he sedates with the tender Broken, the highlight for many of his debut.
Like his heroes Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Bugg says little on stage. He never has. He isn't a talker, a showman, an extrovert... just a musician. But he knows this is special.
"Thank you for making this night very special," he says, adding: "I never thought i'd get to play here."
Apart from introducing the odd songs and thanking us, it's all he says for the whole 80 minutes he's on stage.
Yes he's played to bigger crowds; 17,000 saw him headline Splendour last summer. But this was a landmark gig. Family and friends were in the crowd. He even had his cousin Scott Bugg's band The Swiines open the show. They looked nervous, almost apologetic, but no doubt lived up to little cousin's expectations, keeping the crowd busy with a set of powerful Mod rock.
For the encore Jake stood alone and delivered Song About Love, the new single that is Shangri La's answer to Broken. But he was always going to end with an explosion and Lightning Bolt did just that, the crowd at their liveliest.
As the band walked off, Jake stayed to applaud those who'd supported him along the way, waving to every corner of the vast arena and no doubt taking it all in.
Those of us who have been following Nottingham's music scene for a decade or two know his success is unprecedented. For Jake, well, he doesn't know anything else. When I spoke to him last year as this gig was announced, he was dreading turning 20, as if time was marching on. But when he does leave his teenage years behind next Friday, what else is there left for him to achieve?