Review of Billy Bragg on the Garden Stage at Belladrum, 9th of August, 2014.
If you know anything about Billy Bragg then you’ll know that he likes his politics and he’s quite happy to hold forth to anyone that’ll listen. This included the audience at Belladrum.
He had been warned that the organisers would take a dim view of any overtly obvious political banners or displays and of course he obeyed that to a letter, the only evidence of anything of any import was a picture of a ‘big’ eye on his amp..
Of course Billy Bragg without politics would be like the Pope without his vestments, Celtic without their hoops or fish without chips. And yes he lectures a bit and arguably there’s too much chat and too little music but what he says (depending on your political leanings) is worth listening to and actually quite interesting and witty.
Whether it’s being perturbed by reading a diary entry from his grandfather celebrating the beginning of the First World War at Trafalgar square or reflecting on the horrors of war in Paschendale or more recently, Gaza, he speaks with passion and it’s mostly lapped up by the Bella crowd.
It’s a solo ‘Americana’ Billy that we’re treated to this afternoon. He neatly explains that ‘Americana is country music for people who like The Smiths’ which is as good as a definition as I’ve ever heard!
All the popular tunes get an airing with special merit given to ‘Never Buy the Sun’, ‘Sexuality’ and the Kirsty MacColl tune ‘A New England’ and are all sung with just Billy and his guitar. There’s no backing band to accompany him and this would be a brave move for some but the songs are good enough that they sound just as good without the additional accouterments a live band would provide.
The Independence Referendum is mentioned on a few occasions and it could be my imagination but ‘Take Down the Union Jack’ did seem to be particularly well received. Inverness Gigs is of course non-partisan and we have no view either way!