Jake Bugg bears the burden of hopes and dreams.

I'm not talking about his own. I'm referring to those belonging to others, who dearly want -- perhaps even need -- this young man to transform into the voice of a generation. Those are the folks who are attaching the "next Bob Dylan" (or "next Johnny Cash" or "next Neil Young") tag to Bugg's name, clearly before any such comparison is warranted.

That kind of buzz is dangerous for a relatively new artist. Yet, one thing was made clear during the 19-year-old British musician's concert on Thursday at the Fox Theater:

Bugg won't be squashed by the hype.

He acquitted himself quite nicely during the Oakland gig, shaking free of the bondage of others' grand expectations and showing a determination to forge his own path in the industry. His rise through the ranks, which has been downright meteoric thus far, probably won't remain on the same trajectory for long, yet Bugg proved that he has the talent to stay relevant once the buzz dies down.

He's definitely got a good thing going on. Although still a month away from his 20th birthday, the Nottingham native has a deep understanding of decades-old American blues and folk. He takes those styles and injects a decidedly modern garage-rock feel to them. The result can sound, at times, like the Black Keys. In other moments, the tunes move with a distinct Strokes swagger. (Ironically, one of Bugg's opening acts at the Fox was the Strokes' own Albert Hammond, Jr.)


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It's a heady mix, yet one that is far from unique. Just ask folks who frequent the bars and clubs in Nashville and Austin, Texas. It's not, however, a sound that one expects to hear played so skillfully, and so confidently, by someone so young. Walking onto the Fox stage, Bugg more resembled the "next Justin Bieber" than the "next Bob Dylan," looking like he'd just walked out of a photo shoot for some tween idol zine. That's probably why his haircut -- which resembles Bieber's 'do, circa 2010 -- gets nearly as much attention as his songwriting.

Fortunately, Bugg's voice is even better than his haircut. He sounded strong as he opened the concert with a powerful version of "There's a Beast and We All Feed It," which is also the lead track from his sophomore effort, 2013's Rick Rubin-produced "Shangri La."

The music was a bit rough and tumble, yet not sloppy in the slightest, with an overall feel that was more Ryan than Bryan Adams. The vocalist-guitarist worked from the trio setting, accompanied by a drummer and a bassist, for the majority of the night, yet he'd also take a satisfying solo spin.

He handled a variety of styles and tempos, moving through the country rambler "Trouble Town" (from his 2012 eponymous debut), the bluesy mid-tempo "Simple Pleasures" and the fragile acoustic number "Broken." His best work came with the electric guitar, juicing up the concert cuts in ways that you won't find in the studio counterparts.

He still has plenty to work on in his live show. Notably, Bugg has the stage presence of a bug. He doesn't seem all that concerned with being a showman, but perhaps that will come in time.

Bugg closed the show in fine fashion, giving some degree of weight to the Neil Young comparison with a rock-solid cover version of "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" and then closing with his own electrifying hit, "Lightning Bolt."

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.