Support comes from Sean McGowan, a 20 year old Billy Bragg clone from Southampton who writes lyrical protest songs and bawls them out in a raspy voice that hammers his points home perfectly. The self proclaimed “pissed up, folk, punk singer” keeps up a winning banter with the crowd in between numbers. He’s ably supported by his mate Dean Paul on guitar as they rattle through the songs on the “People’s music” E.P. which you can find on iTunes. A great self assured set from a musician who’s definitely one to watch.
Billy Bragg has always been a man who expresses himself by penning love songs, although he will always be more well known for both his political tunes and stance. On “Tooth and Nails”, his first new album for a while, he lays his feeling bare in a series of mellow confessional ditties. He’s got a full band with him, drums, bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards and pedal steel and they’re all really good players. They take great solos without being too flashy and everyone plays with an understated self assuredness.
Of course the spirit of Woody Guthrie is not going to be too far away and we get to hear Billy Bragg’s version of Guthrie’s classic migrant song “I ain’t got no home” to kick things off. Bragg then says that even though the BNP describe themselves as fascist and not racist, to both him and Woody Guthrie it’s one and the same thing before launching into “All you fascists (bound to lose)” to huge applause.
With both the band line up and the new album, there’s a distinct Country & Western vibe to what Billy Bragg is doing at the moment, but he reminds us that his music has always had that element as he plays “You woke up my neighbourhood” from his 1991 album “Don’t try this at home”. Handyman blues” off the new album also goes down well. Containing the line “I’m not any good at pottery so let’s lose a “T”, and shift back the “E” it’s an ode to his own DIY inadequacies.
Of course the subject of Thatcher is eventually going to come up, and Billy Bragg says he was on tour in Calgary when he wandered into a coffee shop, switched on his mobile and was bombarded with text and email messages about it. He’s already voiced his opinions on the subject via Facebook etc so his main comment tonight is that “now she won’t know how Breaking Bad ends”.
We also get to hear, “Milkman of human kindness”, “Sexuality” and “Waiting for the great leap forward”, a set of classic tracks that have stood up well throughout the years. All in all, a great set from an old hand at entertaining a crowd and providing lyrical food for thought. Nice one.