Pop Live: Billy Bragg Jazz Cafe, London

Down the Chalk Farm Road they came, veterans of the Miners' Strike and other Eighties struggles, for a night out with an old mate. In these changing times, when even the Labour Party isn't what it used to be, there is something comforting about the sight of Billy Bragg, post-punk poet of the people, alone on stage with his electric guitar.

He must have felt very alone, underneath the huge domed roof of the doomed Roundhouse - so for the first 15 minutes, he kept his head down, and ploughed through the oldies. "We didn't know how many people would remember who I was," said Bragg, explaining why his return to the London stage was a one-off and solo. He needn't have worried, the place was sold out and when he forgot the words of "St Swithin's Day", the audience sang them for him. He raised his game with an absorbed, passionate rendition of "Levi Stubbs' Tears". "Yes!" he bellowed as the last chord rang out. "I don't forget that bugger, I can tell you." He gave us poetic songs of broken love. He gave us socialist anthems with folk tunes, and funny stories. He gave us a headache with his Clash-like guitar sound. And he gave us a history lesson, as the preamble to "A Pict Song", a new one with words by Rudyard Kipling. First the Romans offered the Picts central heating, said Bragg; then roads ("and the people up in the trees shouted 'piss off'") and finally, persuasively, "capu-bloody-ccino". Ever since then the Italians have been beating us at football."

What a lad. Except these days he's a dad and the title of his new album is William Bloke. The difference? "A bloke doesn't need to drink 13 pints to prove himself. And you can borrow a ladder off him." And just to prove it, he came out for the first encore holding a ladder aloft.

Like every old mate you meet in the pub, he stayed around too long - and got a bit embarrassing, with a halting attempt to define a spiritual "socialism of the heart". But this indulgent audience didn't seem to mind; just having him around to sing "There is Power in a Union" seemed comfort enough. Together in the dark, singing along, it was almost possible to believe.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade