Billy Bragg, Dan Le Sac & Scroobious Pip - Roundhouse, London - 5/3/08
07 Mar 2008
"'where are we in the new world order?' billy asks... 'right up the arse of america!'"
Billy Bragg, renowned national treasure, does us proud by once again grabbing our government by the balls, if only for the duration of a gig.
Only a patter away from the tube station, the still relatively fresh Roundhouse really is a fantastic little venue for intimate acoustic gigs (oddly, despite its size). Although it is a quirky maze inside and sound has been known to get lost mushily in its circular space, my worries are soon hushed as an informative suit lets us know the gig is going to be completely acoustic. Just Billy himself, a guitar, and one amp. My disheartened companion's hopes of seeing the Small Faces key legend and recent addition to Billy's band Ian McLagan are quashed. Yet I on the other hand cannot think of anything better as I head to the not-so-quick 'Speed Bar' for some overpriced beer-water.
This is Billy Bragg (Silly Slag)'s penultimate gig before continuing his relentless world takeover, stopping all over Europe as well as the U.S.A. and Australia to charm with a mix of pop, punk (but not pop-punk) & politics. Billy is merrily celebrating his new album Mr Love and Justice his first studio creation in 6 years, and celebrate it he certainly does, with rustic style and unabashed English charm.
Dan Le Sac and Scoobius Pip was a surprising oven of a warm-up. Reflecting the audiences range in age and general taste, drum n bass and jazz combine in this poet and producer combo, who in this setting represented something for the young'uns without offending the oldies. The twosome throw down some masterfully mixed beats and clever, cheekily observational lyrics, all the while restoring the grey haired folks' faith that our generation not only has a hearty (if very beery) voice, but also something to say.
The excitement assembles in a sweaty squash of faces, expectant in a rowdy pregnant pause. Like wild piglets we scream and tumble over one another, fighting for Billy's teat of musical genius. And he's not even on stage yet.
When it did arrive, Billy Bragg's show was a mishmash of witty admissions and awe-inspiring wisdom, peppered with romance, rock and tales of fatherhood. He spoke like he sung - both in terms of quality and quantity, tone and content. His deep, harmonious baritone lulls us into a true sense of security, while his political sword stabs a sea of mesmerised minds. If only this was the voice of New Labour, maybe generation Z might have some interest in voting.
Bragg offers cutlets of new material ('You Make Me Brave' and 'Farm Boy' being two firm sing along favourites already), but seasons the unfamiliar with well-loved tastes and textures (including of course 'Sexuality' and 'New England') and marinates with lyrical political preach ('Where are we in the new world order?' Billy sings 'Right up the arse of America!').
The new stuff is succulent, with rich lyrics and hilarious anecdotes maintaining tender observations and new found daddish wisdom. It's the recipe for a classy all-English heart warming fun for the entire family gig, yet Bragg should still watch that he doesn't cross the line from passionate preacher to pushy brainwasher.
Nonetheless, I left the ball smiling to the harmonious hum Billy's poetic political pop. The fuzz of the sweet tunelets lined my belly, which had a new fire inside it, and I slept soundly. I awoke the next morning, la-la-la-ing single-handedly against the government for another day.