Islington Assembly Hall, London
‘Some artists would be thrown by having an election during their tour – I am not one of those people’ proclaims The Bard Of Barking as he launches into a firey ‘Thatcherites’ on the 1st night of his three night run in the capital. Coldplay aren’t the only ones who are trying to tour with an eye on their carbon footprint although I think it makes more sense when he’s playing the States and flying to each venue.
The format of the tour is first night – career spanning set, 2nd night – Life’s A Riot/Brewing Up/Taxman and last night – Playtime/Don’t Try This/Bloke – although not played in their entirety, just ‘selections from’. Some of the in between song “raps” each night are similar as he addresses the current political and social malaise but 42 different songs are aired across the run (43 if you count a radically reworked with modern references ‘Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards’ on Night 1)
It really interesting to see a progression of his song writing from the social and political themes to the more personal politics of life. Not to say that his early songs don’t have real emotional bite ‘ The Man In The Iron Mask’ commentary by a cuckolded man has still a starkly brutal emotional punch. Dave Woodhead pops up to add mournful trumpet to ‘The Saturday Boy’ & ‘Levis Stubbs Tears’ and with Wiggy dashes headlong down the A13.
The final night features nine songs from Workers Playtime with Billy adopting what he calls “my bruised heartbroken soul boy” persona (only leaving ‘Rotting On Remand’ & ‘Life With The Lions’ on the shelf) and filling us in on the personal stories behind the songs including meeting the catalyst for the album, Mary, on Westminster Bridge, giving her rough mixes of the songs that we’re ostensibly about her in an act of some kind of decency and he throwing them into the Thames. ‘I was heartbroken, that incident would have made a great song’ he deadpans.
Perhaps due to the band nature and production of ‘Don’t Try This At Home’ we don’t get as much of that as I’d hoped – would have been nice to hear ‘Everywhere’ or ‘Moving The Goalposts’ but that’s only an afterthought. As ever ‘Tank Park Salute’, his tribute to his Dad never fails to make tears appear and the run ends with the only song that was played every night ‘There Is Power In A Union’. Fists raised to the ceiling all around and whether you agree with the man, his politics, its sentiment or not – hey, hey, there goes one of our finest songwriters.
Much more of a 50/50 split than most audiences you find yourself in these days. Only the Saturday night bought out the Jeremy Corbyn / White Stripes mashup chant – unsurprisingly from the far left of the hall. No arseholes, no talker, plenty of sing-a-along comradeship.
Shouts for requests are put down with the time honoured ‘It’s alright for you, mate, you only have to remember the title’
It made me think..
He could have done a 4th night from the songs he left out and it would still be a cracking set. Talent in depth – the boy done good
For anyone with DIME – my tapes of all three nights are up for grabs