LIVE REVIEW: Billy Bragg @ Wylam Brewery, Newcastle (16.11.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Samuel Ashdown

Wylam Brewery Tap towers in the darkness of Exhibition Park, amongst the festoons and the placid lake a swelling of politics and activism graced a blustery and freezing Newcastle Thursday evening. This sold out show was truly packed to the rafters with a diverse crowd set on a night of punk rock protest poetry and activist anthems. Billy Bragg opened the show with a song about the anti-fascist protester Saffiya Khan, and contined to play tracks from his well-received six song EP Bridges Not Walls which comprises of his take on a myriad of current issues swaying between righteous anger and irony.

The underlying political tones in Bragg’s work never fall far the substance of his lyrics, and over the evening the Barking wordsmith covered Trump, climate change, racism, equal rights, LGBT issues and Brexit to name but a few. It’s easy to feel bamboozled in a live environment where no one issue seems to be given the sincerity of which it deserves, but more shuffled through like a social engagement bingo to please the 200 strong audience, his album too often feeling more like a hodgepodge of topics he woke up feeling angry about that day than a considered release. Still, he prevailed with his latest ballad Full English Brexit, a hard listen with strong nuances of little England ideals colliding with modern political trends and taking on the guise of a older leave voter who feels ignored by the current conversation.

Accompanied by long time collaborator CJ Hillman, the duo played a blend of covers, recent work and historic hits from Bragg’s long spanning back catalogue, all performed with certainty and aplomb despite his involvement in a series of seemingly endless writing and media projects outside of his musical life.

Bragg’s overlying message was to make sure people at his shows and around the world didn’t feel alone; judging by the sing-a-longs and crowds engagement this was a goal well achieved by this stalwart of the punk rock protest music scene.


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