• Most Recent Stuff

  • Twitter

    • Tickets bought to see @LukeHaines_News in Glasgow on May 13. No idea how he was persuaded to venture up North but bloody delighted. 5 months ago
  • Email Updates and Stuff

  • Archive

  • Posts, by month

  • What You Said!

    extremelisteningmode on Our new least favourite band…
    Sam on Our new least favourite band…
    Welsh band lover on The worst band ever! – N…
    extremelisteningmode on The worst band ever! – N…
    Welsh band lover on The worst band ever! – N…

Billy Bragg – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

One man and his guitar

One man and his guitar

“I don’t think that it’s amazing that it’s 30 years since Life’s a Riot With Spy vs. Spy came out” says Billy Bragg. “I think it’s more amazing that 30 years after I started, there’s still a room full of people in Glasgow on a midweek night who want me to share my music with them.” It’s a very Braggian statement; self-effacing, shifting the focus away from the individual experience to that of the group. But he’s got it the wrong way round. There’s nothing remotely surprising about people still wanting to see one of Britain’s premier songwriters of the last three decades perform his work. But can it really be that long since he first turned up, armed only with an electric guitar and a desire to change the world?

He’s aged well, the beard he now sports grown to hide “a multitude of chins”. With four-piece band backing him, he kicks into ‘Ideology’, as quintessentially Billy Bragg as you can do without parody. It’s as relevant now as it was in 1986, a theme which emerges several times tonight. There are some of the more country-flecked songs from his recent album Tooth & Nail, before he segues seamlessly into ‘Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key’ from Mermaid Avenue. Those albums of lost Woody Guthrie lyrics he wrote music for (along with Wilco) stand as some of the best stuff he’s ever done, a million miles away from the hollering Barking punk of popular lore.

But…but…when the band wander off and he stands there armed with just a guitar, well, dull of soul is the man who does not get a deep and unmistakeable thrill. ‘To Have and To Have Not’ still sounds like what punk was supposed to be. ‘She’s Got a New Spell’ is just lovely. ‘The Milkman of Human Kindness’ brings a wide smile to the room. And isn’t that what music should do?

Between songs, he veers between road stories, tales from the home and well-reasoned political polemic. He’s never been afraid to tell you what he’s about, but neither is he one to hector; while you may not agree with his views on everything, you never feel like you are being lectured.

Band back on and we’re in the home stretch. Highlights include ‘There Will Be A Reckoning’ and a Kraftwerk-influenced ‘A New England’ – honestly – before the encores conclude with ‘The Great Leap Forward’, his mission statement. ‘You can be active with the activists or sleeping with the sleepers’ he sings, and that’s him in a nutshell; make a choice and then get to work. It’s rollocking and the crowd – disappointingly quiet, which may be due to the somewhat serene environs of the Concert Hall – finally lose their inhibitions and start to dance. Awkwardly, sure, but still dancing.

Billy Bragg’s worldview has always been about making the world a better place. His music certainly has. He’s a national treasure, even while he’s busy trying to change that nation. The world needs more like him.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: