Music review: Billy Bragg, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow

Pop's greatest socialist agitator was positively inspiring. Picture: Shutterstock
Pop's greatest socialist agitator was positively inspiring. Picture: Shutterstock
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Right now, we need Billy Bragg more than ever. He can’t single-handedly rescue the weary and dispossessed, but he can remind us that we’re neither beaten nor alone. During this defiant solo show – the first of three consecutive nights at this intimate converted church – he cherry-picked material from across his career.

Billy Bragg, Saint Luke’s, Glasgow *****

It found pop’s greatest socialist agitator literally preaching from a pulpit. That joke wasn’t lost on Bragg, whose funny/serious between-song sermons are a vital part of his live shows.

During an impassioned anti-Brexit spiel he urged the faithful to employ tactical voting on 12 December while simultaneously dismissing Johnson, and one of his disgraced 80s contemporaries, as “Borissey”. He delivered eloquent words of support for trade unionism, Scottish independence and the healing power of solidarity through music. To prove his point, he led spontaneous communal singalongs through some of his greatest songs.

I even shed a tear during the profoundly touching I Keep Faith, a tribute to the fortitude of all good people everywhere. Hell, when he thrashed out his thrilling folk-punk adaptation of Woody Guthrie’s All You Fascists, I truly believed it.

That’s what’s so inspiring about this romantic pragmatist. He isn’t scared of sincerity and passion, he encourages us to have hope in the face of dismal odds. As he said tonight, the antidote to cynicism is activism. Get out there, make a difference, change minds if you can. That’s not naivety, it’s a tangible dream.

PAUL WHITELAW