Billy Bragg Fight Songs

Billy showing signs of wear but still worth Bragging about

Published: 28/10/2012   by: http://www.smh.com.au

Billy Bragg
Enmore Theatre, October 27

Luckily, you walk out of a Billy Bragg concert feeling too buoyed, ebullient and emboldened to think uncharitable thoughts about anyone (well, ok, maybe with the exception of Messrs Murdoch, Abbott, and sundry Republican blowhards).

Otherwise you might be tempted to say that if those humourless Socialist Workers Party types flogging their screed out the front of the Enmore Theatre had as much fun, and let's be frank, as much sex, as their fellow travellers Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg sing about, then the revolution might be a lot closer brothers and sisters. A lot closer and a lot more enjoyable.

On his 10th tour here, this show - split into Billy singing Woody and then Billy singing Billy (and everyone in the audience singing both) - was easily the best Bragg has given us since 2003. While his voice, never what you might call overly melodious, is showing clear signs of wear, Bragg was funnier, dirtier, happier and more optimistic than recent visits.
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Now there was no shortage of activism and agitation from a man who can still get riled up about the milquetoast Liberal Democrats. The first half had his musical adaptations of Guthrie lyrics like the proto-feminist She Came Along To Me and the prescient song of state control Aginst Th' Law (and the all-Guthrie song of lynch mob society, Slipknot). Meanwhile the second half included the tabloids smashing of Scousers Never Buy The Sun, rewritten lyrics to Waiting For The Great Leap Forward which comically punctured Cameron-era hypocrisies and the prescient song of a Gina Rinehart world, To Have And To Have Not ("just because you're better than me, doesn't mean I'm lazy/just because you're going forwards, doesn't mean I'm going backwards").

Nonetheless, there was equally no shortage of songs of love, hurt and tenderness for we "Saturday softies" in Go Down To The Water and The Price I Pay, nor songs of fun and hope in My Flying Saucer and A New England. And certainly no shortage of lust, beginning but certainly not ending with Ingrid Bergman.

A Bragg concert, filled with discursive talk that can teeter on the edge of, but is too entertaining to fall into, lecturing may be in a sense preaching to the converted. But even the converted sometimes need to know that they're not naive and they're not stupid just because they think and they sing, they think and they love, they think and they laugh.

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