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Billy Bragg

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill - 5th November, 2017

Written By Andy Gunton

  • Photograph by Sara-Lou Bowrey

  • Photograph by Sara-Lou Bowrey

  • Photograph by Sara-Lou Bowrey

There may not have been any fireworks inside the De la Warr Pavilion on Sunday evening, when Billy Bragg brought his ‘Bridges Not Walls’ tour to Bexhill, but some of the songs played were certainly of an incendiary nature.

It’s hard to believe that Billy Bragg’s music has been around for over 30 years now, something that certainly makes me feel my age. So tonights gig was probably a bit of a trip down memory lane for many of those present, especially if the average age of the audience was anything to go by.

Starting off with ‘Sexuality’, Billy took us back through those 30+ years, and right up to date as well, with songs from across the decades, including a couple of cover versions.

As he mentioned himself, nobody goes to a Billy Bragg gig for the light show, or for the quality of his voice. It’s all about the songs and what they say. 

Just one man and his guitar(s), sometimes using the guitar the song was actually written on, plus the occasional accompaniment from CJ on guitar, or slide guitar.

Sometimes it’s all you need, especially when you can hear all the lyrics to the songs, as you could on the night..

Less is often more, and tonight was a good example of just that.

All the elements of a typical Billy Bragg gig were present on the night, including between song chats, rants and thoughts about a varied array of subjects.

Those topics ranged from memories of a recent trip to Iceland, to Brexit, Climate Change, Donald Trump, Skiffle, Human Migration, plus the influence of Woody Guthrie on Billy’s career.

There was even time for an amusing anecdote about eating braised Puffin in Iceland!

The relevance of Woody Guthrie’s songs in today’s world was also touched upon. 

As Billy himself said, if you wait long enough those political songs of the past will become relevant and topical once more. 

He’d even started noticing how his own early songs were now coming into that category, something I’m sure he never expected back in the early 1980’s.

Of course at the heart of the performance were those songs, including renditions of old classics such as ‘Man In The Iron Mask’, Greetings To The New Brunette’, St Swinthins Day’, a sing-a-long to ‘The Milkman Of Human Kindness’, and a personal favourite of mine ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’.

If there was a theme running through the gig it was Solidarity, a topic Billy touched on many times during the evening. 

So it was fitting that the show finished with a rousing version of ‘There Is A Power In A Union’.

The inevitable and thoroughly deserved encore started with an alternative version of ‘The Times They Are A Changing’, complete with updated lyrics.

Following on was a very topical new song, ‘Full English Brexit’, powerful stuff indeed.

The evening ended perfectly with a sing-a-long version of ‘New England’, complete with a mention of the late Kirsty MacColl.

That was a party political broadcast on behalf of the Billy Bragg party, and very enjoyable it was too.


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