Saw a fine set from Billy Bragg at the Royal Festival Hall last night, with a cold-ridden Bragg displaying his usual range of styles from playing with a pedal-steel guitar and country band to solo songs with acoustic and electric guitars.
The show featured a mention of his home county and line dancing during a speel about going country and how the only twang he had was Essex. And also an inter-county dispute with Russell Brand. Bragg couldn’t agree with Brand about not voting, saying that although “there might only be an inch between Labour and the Tories that inch makes a difference to thousands of people”. He sneaked in a nice change to the lyrics of Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards with: “One step forwards two steps back/ will Russell Brand get me the sack?”
William Bloke also mentioned his grandfather walking from Barking to Buckingham Palace to sign up for the First World War in the introduction to Between the Wars and two of his most moving songs were tributes to his late parents, Tank Park Salute and Goodbye. He also impressed my 15-year-old daughter who thought Handyman Blues could have been written about her dad.
Spent most of my life growing up with Bragg, so it was lovely to hear some of his older numbers like You Woke Up My Neighbourhood and New England alongside great new songs like No one Knows Nothing Anymore and There Will Be a Reckoning. All interspersed with the usual Bragg wit on being hip again (“Nowadays there’s lots of 25-year-old blokes with beards wanting to sound like Woody Guthrie and wishing they were 55!”) and sage advice to never trust anyone who has no doubts, “as they’re either an evangelist or a Trotskyist trying to sell you a paper.” Long may he continue.