Billy Bragg + Sean McGowan @ Town Hall, Birmingham – 11 November 2017

Posted by Gig Junkies on Saturday Nov 11, 2017 Under 80s, Acoustic, Poetry, Punk

Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison.

Tonight’s performer has always been outspoken. A revolutionary spokesman for a generation, highlighting social injustice and rallying for the cause. And he’s been doing this for thirty odd years. To a pretty much sold out Birmingham Town Hall, and galvanised by recent ‘events’ welcome to Mr Billy Bragg.


Tonight support comes from Sean McGowan – singer, songwriter and punk poet, he is genuinely blown away by 1. playing a venue such as the Town Hall full of people and 2. being support to his icon, Billy Bragg. Without whom he wouldn’t have picked up his guitar in he first place. He’s just released his  debut EP ‘Graft & Grief’ and has a new single out ‘Costa Del Solution.’ He says of his recordings “It dawned on me that people spend 50 weeks of the year thinking about the 2 weeks they get away on holiday. Whilst it’s great to have something to look forward to – I don’t think you’re doing life right if you’re not enjoying more than two weeks a year. It’s tied in with this feeling of being stuck on the conveyor which is a theme that runs through this record. Doing as was done by those before you. Falling into routine. It’s nonsense, do what you want, have fun and make it work.” Witty, talented and entertaining, keep an eye out for Sean McGowan.


So. According to Billy Bragg  “A progressive is someone who wants to see society re-organised so that everyone has access to the means by which to reach their full potential.” And he’s always fought for the ‘common man’ (or woman) – and thirty years since rallying against Thatcher, fighting with the unions, Socialist Worker and Red Wedge he still has something to say.



In 2016 he worked with Joe Henry, a collaborative effort entitled’ Shine a Light; Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad’ recorded at various points as they traveled between Chicago and Lops Angeles.  The pair toured the world with it. And he’s written a book ‘Roots, Radicals and Rockers’ – a history of the British Skiffle movement.



The political turmoil has got him recording again. He wanted to stop ranting on Facebook, and instead put his rant into music – a string of recent singles, which feature tonight alongside the old. ‘Why We Build The Wall’  Trump (obviously), climate change and racists on the streets of Birmingham (standing up against the EDL at that protest) ‘Saffiyah Smiles.’  ‘Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted’ targets Brexiters’ lies and hidden agenda;  ‘Full English Brexit’ finds Bragg looking through the eyes of an elderly Leave voter.



Tonight’s set includes the older stuff too ‘Sexuality‘ the anti-homophobia song written with The Smith’s Johnny Marr. Woodie Guthrie song from ’42 ‘She Came Along To Me‘ – each song explained with a passionate anecdote.   The set includes ‘Levi’s Stubbs Tears‘, the aptly titled ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ and of course ‘A New England’ with the additional line as a nod to Kirsty MacColl.

Bragg reflects it’s a full circle, it’s time to rant on music once again. And the punters have turned up tonight to his rallying call. As he says: “Music can’t change the world, but it does have the power to bring people together. In such divisive times, it seems a good place to start.”

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