Billy Bragg Fight Songs

Billy Bragg finds a new Essex in West End Read more

Published: 27/10/2012   by: http://www.smh.com.au

Billy Bragg, The HiFi, Brisbane, October 26

In terms of musical matches made in heaven Billy Bragg fits as perfectly with West End as Ke$ha would with Fortitude Valley.

No doubt the very civil union has something to do with the Essex 50-something's incomparable knack of mixing pop and leftist politics without excuse.

His dedication of Accident Waiting to Happen to Premier Campbell Newman, for instance, was lapped up without objection in this, one of the few remaining Labor-held seats in the state. The barbs thrown Tony Abbott's way were met with nothing less than collective cheers (his jabs at Morrissey a little less so). And the makeshift Socialist Worker newstand out the front on Boundary Street seemed to do a roaring trade.
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Fresh from Thursday's sold out show at QPAC, Bragg brought his celebration of what would have been Woodie Guthrie's 100th Birthday to the Boundary Street club last night, playing tracks from the Mermaid Avenue project.

Songs such as Way Over Yonder and I Guess I Planted lost none of their charm filtered through Bragg's bare-bones pairing of electric guitar and cockney croon.

Other adaptations of Guthrie's work such as Ingrid Bergman and All You Fascists only grew in stature preceded by Bragg's lengthy introductions concerning sexual metaphors and Woody's musical legacy.

Appreciative of the extremely enthusiastic audience in attendance (and amused by a scuffle in the crowd) Bragg reeled out highlights from his personal songbook the rest of the night.

In kind the HiFi fans gave him the night off chorus-wise, the sold out crowd raucously belting out the refrains of The Milkman Of Human Kindness and To Have and To Have Not in unison to Bragg's delight.

The hair-raising highlight, though, was all Billy's - a heartbreaking take on the most heartbreaking track in his catalogue - Levi Stubbs Tears. Despite his reputation as a political rebel rouser tracks such as these are the greatest example of his awe-inspiring empathy for his fellow man. Springsteen would be envious.

When he leaves the stage the crowd erupts in an almighty roar of stomping feet and cheers, goading him to return with a chorus of "Billy, Billy." It does the trick.

Fondly recalling his first gig in Brisbane at the Easts Leagues Club 25 years ago, Bragg crowns the HiFi crowd with the coveted title of the best on tour, as well as the "fightingest, loudest and ugliest". I bet he says that to all the male-dominated Australian crowds.

He ends the night with a contemporary adaptation of his leftist anthem Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, once again throwing jabs to conservative politicians both here and abroad, before finishing with the contractually obliged A New England.

In West End, Billy might have found himself A New Essex.

Setlist: My Flying Saucer, I Guess I Planted, Ingrid Bergman, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, Pretty Boy Floyd, California Stars, I ain't got no home in this world anymore, Dry Bed, All You Fascists,(intermission) To Have and To Have Not, Price I Pay, Tomorrow's Going to Be A Better Day, Greetings to the New Brunette, Accident Waiting to Happen, Must I Paint You A Picture, Scousers Never Buy The Sun, Milkman of Human Kindness, Levi Stubbs Tears, There Is Power In A Union, Tank Park Salute, (encore) Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, A New England

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