Billy Bragg Christchurch Review

Published: 19/10/2012   by:

Billy Bragg performed a stellar show to a full house at the Aurora Centre here in Christchurch earlier this week. The show was held to help raise awareness for the Beat Box band rehearsal facility project, and Billy has graciously offered to donate a percentage of the profits towards this cause. The entire Billy Bragg tour was a huge success with rave reviews up and down the country, and Billy hopes to return again some time next year!

Bragg on a mission

Billy Bragg at the Aurora Centre, Tuesday, October 16.
Support from Lindon Puffin
Review by Matt Davey c/o The Press

During one of his many between-song deliberations with the audience, Billy Bragg took the opportunity to mention the release of his new album, which was available for signed purchase after the show. He spoke with a tone of sarcasm, directed in particular towards those under the age of 30, downloaders et al who may not be familiar with what a CD hardcopy actually was. A CD, Bragg mentioned, had the added bonus, if signed by the artist, of being able to be sold on eBay for a profit - something which could not be achieved with an MP3 recording.

Downloading music, legal or otherwise, was one of many subjects touched upon by Bragg. Twitter and the prevalence of negative cynical bloggers on the internet, New Zealand birds, mince pies, Joe Strummer, the tabloids, the Hillsborough football disaster, politics and the power of music were among many topics.

His sold-out concert - his first in Christchurch for some 20 odd years - was split into two halves. The first dealt with his recordings of Woody Guthrie, with American band Wilco, and provided a valuable insight into the life and times of legendary Guthrie, his family and his legacy. Although from opposite sides of the Atlantic, there was a real sense that Bragg was on a mission to pull Guthrie's songs and stories into the 21st century. Bragg revealed the background to Guthrie songs such as Slipknot and All You Fascists and also provided valuable insights into the making of the Mermaid Sessions in Dublin, with Wilco and Guthrie's daughter, Norah, in the late 1990's.

The second half of the show dealt with Bragg's extensive back catalogue, picking well-known tunes from his first six albums in particular. A humorous portrayal of life at the house of Bragg in England lead into The Milkman of Human Kindness from his first recording (Life's A Riot 1983) - a song which Bragg's 18 year-old son was discovered giving the Ramones buzzsaw treatment to in his room.

Bragg has written some beautiful love songs and the tender, Must I Paint You A Picture, was introduced by a tale of broken love emanating from a lonely hotel in Dunedin in the early 1990's. The Great Leap Forward was given a make-over with new lyrics and political references, while the crowd sang along boisterously to A New England. A front row view afforded an insight into the genius of Bragg's guitar work - the sound given extra volume and bite when necessary via a Fender Telecaster on the likes of Greetings To A New Brunette. An excellent new song, The Scousers Don't Buy The Sun, necessitated the above mentioned signed purchase of his new CD.

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