Live Review

Billy Bragg @ The Tivoli

- On a Thursday eve I wondered and wandered into the Tivoli to see the second of three gigs in a row from “The Bard of Barking”. First night was first three albums, second night (this gig) was albums four, five and six and third night was a potpourri.

This trilogy of gigs had been listed a number of times but COVID BS and other factors caused a number of reschedules. This time we didn’t let William Bloke off the hook!

Many people came all three nights. This night, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Deputy Premier of Queensland along with a coterie of quislings and apparatchiks wandered in for a grassroots refresher course in socialism and folk music to help out in the future.

Billy kicked off with The World turned upside down and followed it with The milkman of human kindness – the crowd singalong was warm, heartfelt with lots of happy tears. Then there was The myth of Trust, Richard, Ideology- the magic kept pouring out.

Billy had lots of things to tell us. He fully remembered Joh Bjelke–Petersen (former Conservative Queensland Premier) and his gigs under that regime. A lot of the audience had been listening to Billy since day one and behaved like a crowd of excited children rediscovering a wonderful friend. Billy even had tea-towels in his merch and a lot of people were buying them.

It was titled to be Billy’s “one step forward – two steps back” tour but he could not put a foot wrong. Billy is still adored by so many as he is the real deal. He had a piano player coming onstage intermittently who played in a great barroom, honkytonk style. Billy talked about Margaret Thatcher (evil conservative former English Prime Minister) and explained “the vote” (for the voice for first nations peoples) from his perspective and urged us all to vote for it. He kept the magic rolling and the crowd reunited when he played one of his stellar gems Greetings to the new Brunette – all I could hear was people singing Shirley – it still haunts me today!

Levi Stubbs' Tears was a cracker – followed by To have and to have not and the almighty belter singalong for There is power in a union. Billy kept talking to us like old friends and was really trying to make people think and spread the messages. He then disappeared for a little bit and came back with three encore tracks – I don’t need this pressure Ron - then Walk away Renee” – a cover of a The Left Banke song and finally A New England – which Billy asked us all to sing for Kirsty Maccoll, so we did.

Did I want to come Friday night? yes – was I stupid for not coming all three nights – yes. Billy, stay alive and safe travels brother. Please come back to Kangaroo land really soon.

- Donald Gunn.


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