Jake Bugg / Albert Hammond, Jr. Orpheum, Vancouver BC, January 21

Jake Bugg / Albert Hammond, Jr. Orpheum, Vancouver BC, January 21
Photo: Steve Louie
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No one likes that 33-year-old guy who still goes to parties with high school kids, and Albert Hammond, Jr. hammered that vibe home in his opening set. The former Strokes guitarist made a series of inappropriate sexual comments, from "lubing up the audience" to how the lushly detailed Orpheum dome reminded him of a penis, seemingly ignorant that this was an all-ages show, so half the crowd was under the age of consent and the rest were their chaperones. One half-expected him to offer candy from his tour bus after his set.

Hammond's performance didn't do much to save face either. His voice was rough, a mostly tuneless and grating tenor that occasionally cracked. His four-piece backing band, with two other guitarists and a rhythm section, seemed a little superfluous in the creation of such homogenous rock, churning out so many bland regurgitations of New York loft pop, post-punk, and '90s alternative. They were a little sloppy at times too, particularly on their rendition of "Holiday" from his 2006 solo debut Yours to Keep. It was like seeing the shittiest aspects of the Strokes condensed into a 45-minute set.

Luckily, English wunderkind Jake Bugg saved the show with a no-nonsense set. While his voice hasn't completely developed yet, it already has the worn corners of a man who has seen beyond his years. His vocal timbre is like Joe Newman from Alt-J, but with more of a blues tint and less electro-rock weirdness, and it remained strong and intelligible throughout his set.

His lyrics, though mostly co-written, are surprisingly insightful and honest. In delivering lines like "high on a hash pipe of good intent / but it only brought me down" on "Simple As This" (from his eponymous 2012 debut), and "they keep telling me / I'm older than I'm supposed to be" on "Storm Passes Away" (from his Rick Rubin produced 2013 record Shangri La), he revealed a self-awareness most of us never achieve.

Bugg switched between several electric and acoustic guitars throughout his set, supported by a rhythm section that never threatened his spotlight, though they did bolster his more rock'n'roll tracks. Yet, the set's most emotional moment came when Bugg was left alone with his acoustic guitar to perform slow-jams "Pine Trees" and "Saffron," culminating with the tortured string slaps of the heart-wrenching "Broken" ballad. It felt like he sang these all from his heart.

That said, Bugg's overall performance could have used some work. While he proved just as adept in his tasteful electric guitar solos as with his subtle acoustic strumming, with b-side "Green Man" adding a bit of surf twang and "Kingpin" adding a level of cock rock swagger with a pensive undercurrent to his largely folk and blues indebted set, he had a rather disconnected look on his face the entire time. He almost looked bored when he would solo, vaguely wandering toward the front row and back to the mic, and he didn't engage the crowd much, other than to say a few pleasantries and announce a couple of song titles. A smile would go a long way for a $50 ticket. Other than that, it was a near-perfect set, well played and sequenced.

In typical Bugg fashion, he closed his encore on his crowd-pleasing cover of "My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)" by Neil Young, leaving for last his biggest single "Lightning Bolt" to burn the barn down, a hootenanny that had the crowd doing do-si-dos, clapping, stomping and singing all the words.

It's shocking to think kid is only a month older than Justin Bieber, but he can actually sing and play guitar with the best of them.