BILLY Bragg brought his UK tour to a triumphant close in Glasgow last night at the O2 ABC treating the crowd to a fine mix of tracks from his ten studio albums.
And of course, when you attend a gig by the Barking bard you must also be prepared for Bragg’s socio-political musings on the hot topics of the day. Following the UK government’s controversial Syria vote the previous night the crowd were anticipating Bragg on top ideological as well as musical form, and they weren’t to be disappointed.
Bragg mixed the likes of ‘Tear Down The Union Jack’ with the issue of Scotland’s position within the UK, ‘Handyman Blues’ with women’s liberation, and even joked with the crowd that he was “two ahead” of them in terms of being outraged at a government’s stance on war, before launching into ‘Between The Wars’.
Hits from Bragg’s 1983 debut Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy went down particularly well with the near-capacity crowd, who were constantly brimming with excitement and hanging on to his every word, as he belted out raucous love song ‘The Milkman of Human Kindness’, and the education system damning ‘To Have and to Have Not’.
Talking with the Taxman about Poetry‘s equally fraught and raw guitar thrashes filled the room as Europe’s largest disco ball spun for sing-alongs to ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’, ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, and ‘There Is Power in a Union’.
Bragg never got off his soapbox all night as the subject of the current state of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership proved a popular topic for the socialist singer-songwriter. Bragg noted increased interest in the party again at grassroots level and that he has faith in his new leader to bring real political change.
The leftist political activist berated hipsters stealing beards from folk musicians with ‘No One Knows Nothing Anymore’, preached hope with ‘I Keep Faith’, and liberated with ‘Sexuality’ before ending on his biggest hit ‘A New England’.
Ever refreshing and insightful despite his growing years, Bragg’s music and politics went down well with the Glasgow crowd. This coupled with the fact it was the first time this writer has seen 1500 Scots scream ‘England’ without the word ‘fuck’ preceding it made the gig even more extraordinary.