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Blog: Sir W Of B

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The Slogan On My Placard and I headed once again for Chalk Farm last night, to see Mr Billy Bragg at The Roundhouse. I was BRIM FULL of Trepidation, as the last couple of times I'd seen him had been with The Blokes, his band of... well, shall we just saying they're "musicianly"? Or shall I go on to say that they're smug WOMAD-isms and DREARY influence manage not only to make some of my favourite EVER songs sound deadly dull, but GARNISH them by turning Mr Bragg's songwriting MUSE into something terribly worthy but completely free of FUN? I think i went on...

I'd bought the NEW album on Monday, and went for the Special DELUXE edition, which as well as the normal full-band album had the entire thing AGAIN, but done solo. I suspect either Mr Bragg OR his record company know there are SEVERAL people who feel this way, and so were CATERING to them - the solo one was much more like old times, but it did FEEL like lots of the songs were written with a band in mind, INSOMUCH as they felt a bit empty, or unfinished, like instead of getting to the punchline he was allowing a BAZOOKI to do the talking.

So yes, I had my DOUBTS. We met with Mr S Hewitt and PALS (including Juliet From uk-indie, who i later realised I hadn't seen for the best part of a DECADE) in the upstairs bar and straight away displayed NOUS garnered from previous visits by going to the SPEED BAR inside the stage area, rather than the tiny crowded SLOW BAR on the outside. I give this HOT TIP to you, should you ever go!

Inside Steve pointed out a GOOD SIGN: there was absolutely no band equipment, just a couple of amps, a guitar stand, and a microphone. Could it be... a SOLO SHOW?!?

It was! HOORAH! Billy came out on his own and BLASTED into the first couple of songs, and everything started to get GRATE. There was a LOT of talking, but a LOT of songs too, mostly of the older variety (tho i still find it strange to think of songs off of "William Bloke" as old - surely that only came out last year?), tho with the expected quota of NEW stuff - it was very noticeable that every time he played a new song he'd introduce it off the back of an old one, trying to show it in the same TRADITION of his older stuff. It did sound better in those circumstances, with "I Keep Faith" suddenly getting MUCH better, tho the others did still feel a bit lacking.

Another example of SKILFUL GIG MANAGEMENT: almost exactly half way through the alloted time he did a new one followed by TWO of the "Mermaid Avenue" songs, almost as if he was giving everybody PLENTY of time to get to the loo and back. I was very grateful!

The rest of the gig tho was BRILLIANT, and by the end the entire room was at FULL BELLOW. The encore was even better as he came back and did the ENTIRETY of "Spy Vs Spy", it was AMAZING. I left with my ears ringing, a big silly grin on my face, and respect RENEWED. Thanks Billy!

posted 5/3/2008 by MJ Hibbett

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