An Evening with Billy BraggLeft - Billy Bragg. Photo - Anthony Griffin

It was a devoted crowd that packed into the Recital Centre to watch An Evening With Billy Bragg, presented as part of the 2012 Melbourne Festival. With a career spanning over three decades, Billy Bragg's particular brand of folk punk is equally romantic as it is burning with a passion at social injustice. And as the troubadour from Essex struck his first chords, it was clear to see that it's a passion that has not diminished with the passing of time.

Playing crowd favourites such as Shirley, Must I Paint You A Picture? and Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, Bragg never shied away from giving the audience what they wanted. Within the stunning acoustics of the Recital Centre the poetry of his lyrics shone front and centre, with tales of love lost and quiet devotion.

But Bragg is also a consummate showman. Relating anecdotes about fighting an audience member in Amsterdam, getting swept up in a hen's night in Newcastle, then delivering a fiery speech about the injustices of the capitalist system, Bragg never lectured, instead speaking with knowledge and brevity tempered with a keen wit and easy self deprecation.

Moving from the jokey banter of the first half to the more sober tone of the second, Bragg gently highlighted the political and social messages within his music, without being cloying or overly self-righteous. He warns about the dangers of cynicism, singing songs about his faith in humankind and the power society has for real change if we stand united. The encore performance of 'A New England' demonstrated this, as Bragg handed the song over to the audience in an emotional finale.

Still engaged with the issues that inspired him at the start of his career, Billy Bragg an active lobbyist and political motivator. In a world of The X Factor, youtube sensations and pre-packaged pop stars, he is also a true artist.

Viv Lees in association with Melbourne Festival and Philip and Caroline Cornish presents

Venue: Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall |Cnr Southbank Boulevard & Sturt Street, Southbank
Date: Sat 20 Oct, 2012
Tickets: $83.00 - $66.40

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