Thursday, December 14, 2006
Billy Bragg / Get cape. Wear cape. Fly. Birmingham Academy Wednesday 13th December 2006
I've been a bit of a Billy Bragg fan for...a number of years (yes I know I'm old) but for some strange reason I'd never got to see him live. He plays Glasto most years but he's normally in the Acoustic Tent which is rammed full of men with beards drinking scrumpy. So I was rather looking forward to tonight. GC.WC.F. (far snappier don't you think?) got things off to a flying start with a set that was half Sam with his guitar and half a bloke on drums and a bloke with a trumpet. He's got a lot more oooommmph on stage than he has on record/CD/download (delete as applicable) and the drummer added an almost Drum and Bass vibe to a few tracks. In some ways GC.WC.F. is/are the Billy Bragg of the 21st Century. But then that would mean that Billy was no longer relevent and, judging by his performance tonight, that couldn't be further from the truth. One man and his guitar. No more, no less. Kicking off with 'Sexuality' (which represented the birth of a poppier Billy back in the early 90's) the whole set was littered with the classics plus a couple of new tracks from next year's new album. In between Billy chatted about this and that offering little insights into his life which, coming from most performers might seem a little odd (often there were gaps of several minutes in between songs), but tonight it just felt right. Inevitably, as tonight was part of the Hope Not Hate tour, there was strong political edge, given extra poignency by the closure of the Peugeot factory earlier that day. In fact some of the workers who had been made redundant were there collecting signatures to stop the loss of what's left of our manufacturing industry. Music and politics have, at times in the past, gone hand in hand. Today, few musicians, or any of us for that matter, bother. Of course this is all wrong. But perhaps what we lack are enigmatic speakers who genuinely believe in justice, rather than voting themselves a 66% pay rise. Then again, perhaps most of us are too busy voting for Celebrity ASBO Dancing Hairdresser to vote for politicians. Good grief, I'm turning into Ben Elton. The point I'm very clumsily trying to make is that Billy Bragg works. You trust him. You believe in him. As a person as well as a perfomer. And that's a talent that's all too rare these days.