Billy Bragg @ Teesside University, Middlesbrough 16th Nov 2011

“With the money from her accident she bought herself a mobile home……….” (Levi Stubbs Tears. Billy Bragg 1986)
Now I’ve seen Billy a number of times over the years. Some brilliant; Sunderland Bunker 1984. Some not as brilliant; Newcastle City Hall 1985. But tonight is up there with the brilliants. He walks on stage and knocks out tune after tune. The first half-dozen coming from his first 3 albums and nothing less than 25 years old. Yet the passion and ferocity of his delivery make them as sharp as the day they were released. I’ve followed Billy since his debut album in 83. Watching him on the Tube on a black and white portable in my room singing “The Milkman of Human Kindness” was one of those moments in life that live within me forever. I rushed out and bought the debut album. 8 tracks of teenage angst, political ranting and sheer brilliance. I loved it, still love it. Life is certainly a riot.

“It says here, that this years prince is born. It says here, that the economy is on the upturn. And It says here that we should be proud that we are free. And our free press reflects our democracy…..” (It says Here. Billy Bragg 1985)

I’ve bought every album since and seen the great man on almost every tour since the first time I saw him. (Early 84 supporting The Style Council). Tonight I bought his new album; “Fight Songs”. Not so much an album but a collection of stuff he’s already put out as downloads over the past 10 years. He plays a few from this tonight; “Never buy the sun” (does anyone buy that shit anyway???) “Last flight to Abu Dhabi” (a song about greedy bankers. Are there any other kind???). He mixes these with classics like “It says here”, “Levi Stubbs Tears”, “Power in a Union”, (see link below for a video on Youtube) “St. Swithen’s Day”, “The world turned upside down” and “Great Leap Forward”.

“And wearing badges is not enough. On Days like these….” (Days like these. Billy Bragg 1985)
Inbetween song banter is the usual insights into the human psyche and his political thoughts of the day. He champions the strikers demanding fair pensions he berates the EDL. And yes it’s obvious and yes it’s easy targets for his audience to lap up. But who else is touring the country telling people that the EDL are a bunch of C****? Anyone with half a brain knows they are but it still takes a bit of courage to stand up and say it in public. Billy has never shyed away from confrontation or controversy and he doesn’t look like he’s going to stop anytime soon. Someone told me at the gig that during the day Billy had been on the picket line with the electricians in Boro. It would not surprise me and this is why after all these years I still love him.

“We come in peace. The orders came to cut them down….” (World turned upside down. Billy Bragg 1985.)
At the end of the gig he stays behind for a good few hours signing stuff for everyone who wants him too. And he doesn’t just shake hands, have a photo and move you on. He talks to each and every person. I asked him about The Northern Line and he had heard of us! I gave him a t-shirt. So hopefully the Bard of Barking will be seen advertising the North. He told me he loves the North because the people are like his people in Barking. (One of the poorest boroughs in London) Real people. Tonight was his first time in Middlesbrough. Hopefully it won’t be his last.

“How can you lie there and think of England, when you don’t even know who’s in the team…..” (Greetings to the New Brunette. Billy Bragg 1986)

A big thank-you to The Kids are Solid Gold and Cosmos for putting on the gig. People putting their money where their mouths are. David Hudspeth for the superb photos. And to Billy himself, I finally got to shake his hand after 30 years and he is as genuine as I knew he would be all those years ago when I saw him in my bedroom in Dudley. (Pit Village, North of England)






By peter on November 19, 2011

Check out all the pics

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