Instead of wishes for tolerance and peace, which we usually hear on the gigs of renowned performers, Billy Bragg spoke of capitalism, populism, racism and globalization. Refreshing. He gave his sermons and songs in Helsinki and Tampere on June 6 and 7, 2014.
But who would go to a concert to hear political preaching? Right, nobody. Bragg characterizes himself as a “writer and agitator”. But fortunately, has constructed his set cleverly so that talk and music flow smoothly from one theme and mood to another, always spiced with humour and self-irony.
He sang both new songs from his recent Tooth & Nail album, some old hits and a few pieces by Woody Guthrie. Bragg and Wilco have written music to many texts by Guthrie, as after his death a bunch of lyrics were found with just some scarce music notations. Perhaps the most touching song of the evening was Guthrie’s Ain’t got no home. It was written in 1930’s, but it is tragically true still today. During the latest global recession we have again seen that banks are protected while ordinary people, their customers, are not.
Bragg admitted that the old Marxist terminology has become obsolete although injustice and exploitation have not. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening again, and the free movement of capitals has turned globalization into a curse to millions of poor workers.
The only way to fight against the power of the market economy is to unite, says Bragg. Yet, during the song There Is Power In A Union (written by Joe Hill in 1913) I found myself thinking that trade unions have lost much of their credibility in the eyes of employees, because they have not entered the era of globalization, fast communication and the information society but remained in the industrialized past.
Instead of using the word socialism, Bragg now wants to speak about a compassionate society. As the concert took place on the 70-year anniversary of the D-Day, he also devoted a few warm words to the veterans of the Second World War and elder people in general.
– They spent their youth in the war and worked all their lives to ensure their children would be better off than they. Now it seems our children will have it worse than we, he said.
At the end of this one-man-show of two hours Bragg performed, of course, his greatest hit A new England, and the audience sang the chorus part: “I don’t want to change the world / I’m not looking for a new England / I’m just looking for another girl”.
But we must want to change the world. I agree with Billy Bragg in that the greatest enemy to people’s welfare and a more just world is our own cynicism.
The event I attended: Billy Bragg at Savoy Theatre, Helsinki, on 6 June, 2014.