Pop: I put you on a pedestal, you revive my career



WOODY GUTHRIE, the anti-fascist folk singer and Bob Dylan's musical guru who died in 1967, was writing lyrics in the Forties that are highly relevant today, according to Billy Bragg.

Recently, Bragg and American alt.country band Wilco were asked by Guthrie's daughter, Nora, to put music to a bunch of her late father's lyrics from that period, and they came up with the stunning Mermaid Avenue album.

Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy's warm, emotive voice, interacting with Bragg's Thames estuary yelp, should have produced a gig to cherish but, for some reason, it just did not happen.

Instead, the set opened with Bragg doing two solo acoustic versions, including "Sexuality", which he finished by bellowing "we can be what we want to be", adding "and that applies to Ron Davies as well".

It was also the cue for the Blokes and the first of the Guthrie numbers. Woody wrote a song about gender politics and "She Came Along To Me" provided the first hint of musical diversity from the Blokes (who took Wilco's place and were to prove their worth throughout the night) with some searing Zimbabwean highlife-style guitar from Lou Edmonds.

The song, delivered with touching emotion, was also a reminder that Bragg, often stereotyped as agitpop, has written his best lyrics about personal feelings, such as "Tank Park Salute" which he gave a rare airing tonight.

Persecution was the next theme and Woody's contribution was "Eisler On The Go", about the German composer who escaped from the Nazis and was then thrown out of the USA for being a communist.

Again the Blokes surprised, this time with Ian McLagan (yes, he of the Small Faces) on keyboards providing bluesy, almost trip-hop, vibes.

Then came the politics, with Bragg as stand-up comic saying the tour was backed by the GMB union. The Guthrie spin was "I Guess I Planted", with a ranted pro-union chorus.

An unreleased Guthrie/ Bragg composition called "Flying Saucer" was preceded by the assertion that Woody was not just a folkie: when living in Brooklyn, he listened to urban music and scribbled on the lyric sheet that the tempo should be "supersonic boogie". It is doubtful whether he had a fuzzed- up surf-punk intro in mind, but it was good.

Guthrie's song for children, "Hoodoo Voodoo", got the ska treatment with Bragg thoroughly enjoying a goofy dance and they finished, three encores in, with the forthcoming single "Way Over Yonder In the Modern Key", a manic hillbilly take with Edmonds by playing a range of Turkish instruments and band leader Ben Mandelson ripping away on lap steel.

Largely thanks to a dead guy, and incorporating musical styles from several continents into his set, Bragg is better and more relevant than ever.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor