Published in The Music (WA) | 12.03.14 | Issue # 29
BILLY BRAGG, COURTNEY BARNETT
PERTH CONCERT HALL
9 March, 2014
Having been in WA for a week already, and selling out a headline show the night previous, Melbourne singer songwriter Courtney Barnett felt right at home in front of crowd who, for the most part, probably weren’t looking for another act to add to their collection. Wandering out and fiddling with cables while a packed-out venue sat in complete silence, she quietly introduced herself and began picking away at Scotty Says. A small selection of fans made themselves known by raising their voice at Avant Gardener’s intro, and faintly clapping along to History Eraser.
Now in his mid-50s, it seems Billy Bragg is converting a third generation with his iconic, politically-driven folk punk ethos, as evident by a child no older than five years old sitting in the front row.
It was The Clashing Of Ideologies that set the pass of the evenings set. Bragg’s political, left-wing anthems are as infectious as they are inspiring, and while the British singer hadn’t had a decent chance to sort through Australian media long enough to tailor his show accordingly, he still had a decent stab at the likes of Gina Rinehart and Perth Glory.
No doubt aware that the audience needed a break from time to time from overtly serious subjects, “sappy” tunes such as Chasing Rainbows filled the void and added another dimension of emotion to the scruffy-looking character under the spotlight.
Armed with an electric guitar that came with quite a backstory, Bragg and his band turned their anger on discrimination with All You Fascists, a tune that appears on 2000’s Mermaid Avenue Vol. II and features lyrics that Woody Guthrie penned in the ‘40s. Borrowing more talent from Guthrie with I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore, Bragg then turned his focus onto his beard – something he assured was not hipster, rather “the male equivalent of getting a face lift” at his age, which can also “hide a multitude of chins”.
While it can be hard to pinpoint where Bragg’s influences lie at times and which genre he sits in, he had been “accused” of going country on his most recent record, last year’s Tooth & Nail, but proved he’s always been a little bit country with You Woke Up My Neighbourhood. Temporarily relieving his backing band from their posts so they could check their iPhones backstage, Bragg was left alone for three tracks, the most intimate and potential set highlight being Goodbye, Goodbye. After array of genre-mashing, subject-blending hits including A New England, There Is Power In A Union, Tank Park Salute and Waiting For The Great Leap Forward, the affable singer confidently took off his guitar, and raised a mug to the audience before disappearing side of stage, leaving another congregation of people plenty to ponder on their way home.
Written by Daniel Cribb