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Billy Bragg

Billy-Bragg---Photo-by-Rachael-Barrett-1

Courtney Barnett

Perth Concert Hall

Sunday, March 9, 2014

 

Young Melbournian Courtney Barnett started off the night. A little bit daunted to be playing solo on the grand stage, her humble, awkward banter was charming. As she settled into her groove and finished strong with current JJJ fav Avant Gardener, History Eraser and the beautiful Depreston, it became apparent Barnett was a great choice of support with her heartfelt and humorous indie sound and she received a solid round of applause.

After the intermission Billy and band strolled on stage to warm cheers. He kicked things off to a resounding start with Ideology, before the first song off new album Tooth & Nail, No One Knows Nothing Anymore really displayed his new band’s ability.

After giving life to many Woody Guthrie songs through the Mermaid Avenue albums, Bragg finally recorded a proper Guthrie cover for Tooth & Nail, I Ain’t Got No Home. A song as relevant as ever with its poignant, depression-era lyrics.

A rousing rendition of You Woke Up My Neighbourhood from ‘91’s Don’t Try This At Home was followed by a wonderful cover of The Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers, before the band left the stage, and Billy tore through a few classics solo. Levi Stubbs Tears sounded as great as ever. Between The Wars was dedicated to Margaret Thatcher and Gina Rinehart.

Ballad Goodbye Goodbye was by no means farewell, as the band charged through Sexuality with CJ doing a great job on the Johnny Marr guitar part, and Handyman Blues (introduced as a male liberation anthem, “A hymn to our emancipation”). California Stars was dedicated to the late Jay Bennett of Wilco.

He deadpanned a story about another band he wanted to work with on Mermaid Avenue before Wilco, a subversive, European act… Kraftwerk. A hilarious moody, dark, synth intro, suddenly segued into A New England, and they left the stage after a very loud finale of Accident Waiting To Happen. 

Billy was back solo to belt out There Is Power In A Union and his most beautiful song, the personal tribute to his father, Tank Park Salute. 

After reminding us all that our greatest enemy is cynicism, he launched into the immortal Great Leap Forwards, with band members one by one joining in as the song built up to a rocking climax.

At times when Bragg was singing some of his most potent socialist, revolutionary, working class anthems, it did seem quite a contrast with the posh interior of the dark, sterile, quiet room, but it did make it seem like a real performance. And one, as always with the evergreen Bragg, that was a joy to witness.

 

ALFRED GORMAN

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