Billy Bragg 4th June 2015 Gate to Southwell Festival

Jun 5, 2015   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

BILLY BRAGG
Gate To Southwell Festival 2015

Solo onstage for ninety minutes with only guitars and a not-very-rock & roll mug of medical tea (“for people who think they can sing”), this is the start of Billy Bragg’s 2015 troubadour trek to help the nation shake off those post-election blues.

The old harsh punk rock voice may have become warmer and more country mellow over the years, he may have put on a few pounds and, by his own admission, his seriously trendy folky beard is designed to hide “a multitude of chins”, but at heart Billy Bragg remains a unique figure in British contemporary music.

He’s still a provocatively, political songwriter but to his credit his left-wing stances are no longer dictated by dogma, ideology or party loyalty. Like all true protest singers, minstrels and troubadours, he explores and mines an independent seam of agitation.

There’s typical bravery too, launching into ‘Whose Side Are You On?’ and ‘Power In The Union’ here in the heart of the Nottinghamshire coalfields, where rifts between striking and non-striking miners caused so much acrimony over 30 years ago under Thatcherism.

With Bragg, the personal is as powerful as the political in everything he sings. This is clear from his tributes to the Appalachian folk singer Jean Ritchie, who died earlier this week, to his late father on ‘Tank Park Salute’ and also to Woody Guthrie, who inspired him to create the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ sessions with the American band Wilco.

Above and beyond this reverential work, there’s great humour in his own songs such as ‘Handyman Blues’, urging modern man to cast off his chains, reclaim his masculinity and dignity and refuse to bow to female pressures to attempt DIY: “I know it looks like I’m just reading the paper, But these ideas I’ll turn to gold dust later, Cause I’m a writer not a decorator”.

Such is the wealth and depth of Bragg’s back catalogue , that he doesn’t even get round to performing classics such as ‘Between The Wars’ (“I’ll leave that to the Young’Uns!”), ‘Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards’ or even ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ but, nevertheless, the packed marquee happily crows along on the choruses of ‘A New England’ and ‘Greetings To The New Brunette’, celebrating a great opening night to the Gate To Southwell Festival.
Len Brown 2015

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Southwell Festival