Billy Bragg at the Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg

Billy Bragg at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Nov 21 2009. Jordana Meilleur photo

Billy Bragg at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Nov 21 2009. Jordana Meilleur photo

Review—Billy Bragg at the Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Nov 28 2009

– review by eugene osudar

first times,

virgin ears
and
These (virgin)
Eyes

Burton Cummings
Tiger Woods
high (in)fidelity
Elvis Costello

i’m all open

people who have seen
Billy Bragg love him
adore him
follow his
every intention
to be

the man of faith
The Clash man
the punk busker
folk man

the Joe Strummer
inspired man

the politically
activated man

and the power
to the union
man

oh man
oh woman
oh brothers
and sisters,

workers
fighters
punters
writers

the fists
clenched

i don’t go for that

it reminds mw

of Fascists
actually

and yes,
we need to belong
and feel proud
and activated
and show
our commitment
to the rights
of workers

there is power in a union
there’s also so much
corruption here
(in a union)
as in a corporation
or bought and paid
for
government

doubt
yes
cynicism
never

i belong to
and
i am proud
of (my) union(s)
and what they
do for the workers
and for me
my pension
my hourly rate of pay
my religious holidays
my health plan
my hours of work
to free up
my play
time
my dance time

the history and her/story
of the struggle against
the Fascists
is noble
of birth and struggle
so much blood
spilled
and

is reason for May Day
to be The Holiday
we need to celebrate
around the world
in May
and not some Victoria Day
here in Canada
the ridiculous concept
called
royalty!

i don’t want
my fist clenched
my arm raised
like some
black,shirt
jack,booter

and yes

i roared
my lion’s roar
when he played that
killer
song
about his Machine
his roaring electric
guitar machine
that kills
Fascists

give the boots
and clubs and baseball
bats
to Fascists
just like Woody Allen says
(paraphrasing)
a good beating
is the only thing
those butt,wipes
understand

we don’t want the Fascists
back in power
those Bushes
those Reagans
those Thatchers
darkness
killing
machines

i don’t need
or want fists
clenched

in the air

i want openings

hands
hearts
faces
bodies

and smiles
and being
helpful
and yes
activated

unless my hand
is closed down
on,

all the great artists
have their hands
down their pants

Billy Bragg reminds
us of the illimitable truth
of,

beautiful Patti Smith.

there were only 650
seats sold for
the Billy Bragg
show on Friday

in a venue that holds
1600 plus

(there may have been
800 there
but how many paid?
a lot of free tickets
handed out)

with the unbelievably
great

Ron Hawkins opening

he’s Our

Elvis Costello

the words so intelligent
the tunes
so strident

the voice so much more
beautiful
than Elvis Costello

not as powerful

the attitude so hard
punk
so in your face
against the industry

the corporates
the slime
in music

and hard about the gorgeous
venue’s name

The (Burton Cummings) Theatre

against the dee
bag
of musical poetry
from here

and yes
acknowledging the greatness
of These Eyes

Ron played 11 songs
in 47 minutes

not in this order,

Don’t Be Long
Devil Went
Genevieve
Born To It
Deadman
Turned Around
Envy Heart
Peace and Quiet
Prodigal Son
DFW
and a Ryan Adams
song to end it
Carolina

he had me
in his hands
into his songs
from the start

i was hooting and
hollering
LOUDly
and he shielded
his eyes
from the blinding
stage lights
thanking me
that appreciative voice
in the darkness
into the light

now, here’s a little story.
my good friend
music lover
university radio host
(U of W, 95.9 FM)
Stu Reid
was sitting
front row center,

so i call out to Stu
after Ron leaves
the stage.

“can you get me the set list?
just to write in my journal.
it’s yours immediately after.”

Stu nods. walks to the tech
taking things apart and asks.
Tech looks off stage.
No.

huh?

there are always
first times!
even for not
getting access
to a set list!

oh well.
so we’re hanging around
the merch table after.
waiting for Billy’s set.
Jeff Robson another
music lover and university
radio host (CJUM,
101.5 FM)
is talking about
how he sees
Billy every time
he plays here and
how his expectations
are so high but
recently
he’s been bored
by all the talking
and less rocking.

Stu appears
and his thing
is, he loves
Billy’s talking.
He wants
MORE talking
LESS rocking!

Hilarious!
i love these two
towering guys!
they’re both like
6 ten!

Stu has seen Bruce Springsteen
just over 45 times!
he’s a Bruce geek!
and he readily admits
and has told
The Boss to his face,
he hasn’t made a great
album since Tunnel Of Love.

and then he hands me
Ron
‘s set list. Oh My!

it has every original song
that Ron may choose to
play/perform,

nearly 65 songs!
and they’re organized
by tempo!
23 slow songs
(we were treated to 5 slow songs)
26 mid-tempo songs
(he gave us 4 of those)
and 15 fast songs
(he played 1 of his fast songs!)
and the 1 cover (Ryan Adams)
equals 11 songs!

so, every night
you get a different
Ron Hawkins set.
and he figures
it out
just before he steps
on stage!

this summer
i was treated to The Re-Mains
from Australia
with three pages
of originals
about 70 songs
and Mick
the leader of the band
he just calls out
the songs
from the stage
no discussion!
he calls it
they play it!
and The Re-Mains
are Brilliant.

Billy Bragg
emerges from
the black
and into the light
at 9:08
he walks of stage
at 11:13

two hours and 5 minutes

24 songs!

now, he came out strong
no words
just gogogo
4 songs
and i’m electrified

he is punk,
he looks like a dad
if not for that
fascist killer
strapped
across his immensely strong
shoulders and i remember
why
i loved him
so
when i heard him
play live
his crazy feed,
backing
electric punk guitar
songs
on Brave New Waves
CBC-FM.
circa 1985?
i was 22.
Augusta LaPaix
the host
(painted from memory)

and then it begins
with a cup of tea
his “throat coat”
tea and stories
flow, how the tea
gives him
the ability
to sing like
Smokey Robinson!

how it’s usually a two cup
night and well, we made through
a full steaming three!

about spending three
wonderful days
in our great city
and looking for
hockey bits
for his nephews!
who don’t play football
but play hockey
in the UK!

stories about workers
rights, The Clash,
Joe Strummer,
and not abandoning
President Obama
(man, i want to abandon him
right now!
get those troops
out of Asia
Now!) cuz
we’ll
get the Fascists back.

and at least,
Obama is hope.
and Light.
from the darkness
the world’s been
cast in since 2000.

and mostly
not to fall to
Cynicism

to have Faith.
yes, Doubt
always Faith
No, cynicism

that’s for losers
for the surrendered
and the rendered
of hope
and zeal
to fight
the fascists.

we get the great
and the sexy?
Woody Guthrie
songs
the songs Billy and Wilco
wrote music to
of the 2,500
sets of lyrics
that Woody wrote

the tunes
in his head!

lost forever,
nearly!

so, Billy and Wilco
added 30 songs
to the freedom
fighter’s
catalogue of known
songs

two
thousand

five
hundred

song
lyrics

staggering genius.

Billy has us in stitches
about all the hand
sanitzer
Canadians have everywhere
we’re the most
sanitized
country in the world!

Right oN CaNaDa!

“ain’t nobody
can sing like me
way over yonder
in the minor key!’
he sings it
with American
accent too!

he sings a Guthrie
song that’s over 70 years
old and right up to date
“I Ain’t Got No Home
(in This World No More).”

then the this machine kills
fascists
song

hilarious
George Carlin
like
oxymoronic riffing
on

military intelligence
smart bombs
democratic capitalism!!!!!!!!!!!

self regulation!

No Power Without Accountability!

song after song,
Sexuality

i’m in heaven

“take the F for me
and the Y for you.”

then we get
a little
Carpenters song
and he blows it away
with some hot

Bob Dylan
don’t think twice
it’s alright
babe

songs
about kid soldiers
dying and crying
for their mums
before they die

the politics
of Billy’s punk busking days

and yeah
there was a yahoo after song
4 who wanted
to hear Levi Stubbs
and it wasn’t me
i was happy.
i knew the Tears were coming
near the end.

for my virgin ears
and
i loved the stories

and i loved most every
one of the 24 songs

strident reminders
of the crimes
of now
and the crimes of then,
against Japanese Canadians
and Americans

our crimes
of today,
by our silence!
Guantanamo,
crimes against
Muslims.
No trials. No jury.
just rendering,
No Rights!

Milkman of Human Kindness
Must i Paint You a Picture
At the Top of The Stairs is darkness
and a song written for The Clash
Joe Strummer his hero.

his inspiration!

Power in a Union.
Levi Stubbs and
New England.

a blur
of love
‘n’ hope
punk rock
folk busker
faith

power
union
workers
rights
democracy
Now.

Billy Bragg
Ron Hawkins
November 28.

About Eugene Osudar

“born, august 16, 1963. i’m 45, and yes, i’m getting too old for this. bring out the rocking chair. my first concert, november 1978, elvis costello and the attractions. i was 15. their blisteringly brilliant 65 minute set only served somebody to affirm my new direction in the musical parallel universes, new wave punk alternative, oh sanctity oh celebration (!Freedom!) college radio! i’m old, i’m used up and i’m free. i see 50something Full sets of music every month and dance most of them. and when i dance, i mean to say, I Dance and Celebrate, 2/3/4 hours a night. The Gaslight Anthem. The Boss. The Weber Brothers. The Wind Ups. i’ll dance with Los Campesinos. i’ll move to The Long Winters. The Replacements. Husker Du. The Pogues. oh elvis costello, oh Clash! i could go/go/go Gogol Bordello forever. L(eonard) Cohen. come, Dance With Me (Old 97s) wherever you may be, sincerely, eugene

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