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Billy Bragg

at: Roundhouse

March 5th, 2008 · post by jas · Make a comment

Date of the event: 04/04/08

I had never been to the Roundhouse before tonight, and it is a beautiful venue, inside and out. Despite the tall ceiling and odd shape, the room has brilliant sound all round, and the audience experiences a closeness with the artist that isn’t possible in most venues of this size.

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip are supporting tonight, a brilliant hip hop duo with astute lyrics and catchy beats. They have a relatively long set, and Scroobius Pip does a number of spoken pieces alongside the songs. They play ‘Angles’, a tune about everything that happens having more than one perspective, while Pip puts on some fancy dress to get into the characters. There’s a song about Tommy Cooper, and another where he reads out a ‘Letter From God’. The second to last song is well-known single ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, and Pip adds Billy Bragg to the list of artists whose names “Thou shalt not take in vain”. Honest and amusing, as many of the subjects are situations we have all been in, the set is fun and seems to turn a lot of people on to their stuff by the end.

Bragg comes onstage after a short break, to the adulation of the by now significant numbers packed into the Roundhouse. He wastes no time ploughing straight on with ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, with much of the crowd joining him. This seems to be the theme for tonight, with the crowd very vocal and shouting out between songs as well as carrying choruses by themselves, and the man himself likewise isn’t afraid to engage in conversation between songs. One of the first shouts comes from a girl on the left-hand-side of the audience, and Bragg says “Oh, you’re from Venezeula? Hugo Chavez… We’ll get onto talking about him later.”

The banter continues throughout, with a fired-up Bragg speaking of the need to mobilise against the Barking and Dagenham BNP councillor Richard Barnbrook running for London mayor as easily as he goes into an anecdote about his son’s new Guitar Hero game. The crowd is made up of people aged six to 60, and he talks about how The Clash were an inspiration to his generation, but couldn’t do that much themselves – they just brought like-minded people together. For this reason, he said, the younger among us didn’t need a Clash, we just needed to get together to make things happen.

The set is an extended one, and he is onstage for more than an hour and a half. Because of this, alongside many of his newer songs such as ‘Mr Love and Jsutice’, ‘I Keep Faith’, and ‘Moving The Goalposts’, there are many more older ones like ‘Milkman of Human Kindness’, ‘The Saturday Boy’, ‘St Swithin’s Day’, and ‘Between The Wars’. He comes back on at the end for an encore, joined by a rowdy audience, and ‘Man In The Iron Mask’, ‘There Is Power In A Union’ and finally ‘A New England’ sends him off on a triumphant note.

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