In the same practice as required reading for children attending class, Billy Bragg’s Live at the Union Chapel DVD should be required viewing for all the pop stars in the world that continuously overkill live shows. Early on in the live recording, Mr. Bragg states it has been 30 years since he first started doing gigs and released his first album, adding, “It is also 30 years since I had to work for any other bastard.” This set the stage for a truly memorable experience.
Throughout the nineteen songs performed, some from his 2013 release “Tooth & Nail” and some of his older songs, Bragg holds the stage so naturally that between the songs and his wisdom-filled monologues he never once exudes pretense or an overbearing activist style. Simply put, the set becomes a wonderful lesson in the ideas and ideals of one of the most important singer/songwriters of the last three decades. This singlehandedly proves his longevity.
Aside from the stellar performance there are also a few notable comments made by Bragg. Ironically, “I’m not a great fan of organized religion, excuse me. I’m not a great fan of the geezer who built the 02 Arena either, it’s not venue specific” he states while tuning his guitar in a former place of worship. He also notes that “If you want to live in a multicultural society, we do have to respect things that we ourselves don’t necessarily subscribe to.” Then to add some humor he discusses his, and the band’s, pilgrimage to the places from “Breaking Bad,” commenting that “I was telling the American audiences, the way they watch ‘Downton Abbey,’ they think that’s what life is like in England. <Pauses> I love a joke that doesn’t need a punchline.” But most impressively he makes a fantastic speech at the very end, right before “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards,” where he explains that “the enemy of all of us, who want to make the world a better place, is not actually capitalism or conservatism, it’s actually cynicism. The cynicism that is our enemy is our own cynicism.”
There is a lot to absorb and take away from this performance. There is also a lot to keep you enthralled with this music, but it also becomes a philosophical experience. This isn’t just a watch and put up scenario, you’ll want to keep watching over and over again. Plus it is packed with lots of extras.
Billy Bragg has, and always will, rub some people the wrong way. Whether you’re a fan of his work or you’re just looking for a new DVD adventure, you need to watch Live at the Union Chapel. It will not only make your DVD and music collection better, it stands a chance to make you a better person as well.
2 First Interview
3 Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
4 Do Unto Others
5 All You Fascists Bound To Lose
6 I Ain’t Got No Home
7 You Woke Up My Neighbourhood
8 Interview 2
9 Never Buy The Sun
10 Between The Wars
11 There Is Power In A Union
12 Interview 3
13 Goodbye Goodbye
14 My Flying Saucer
15 Interview 4
16 Swallow My Pride
17 Interview 5
18 Over You
19 Valentine’s Day Is Over
20 Interview 6
21 There Will Be A Reckoning
23 Interview 7
24 Handyman Blues
25 Tank Park Salute
26 Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards
DVD Bonus Features:
1 Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy Encore
1 No One Knows Nothing Anymore
2 Handyman Blues
3 Handyman Blues – The Outtakes
The Space Race Is Over (Live from The Lexington)
Chasing Rainbows (Live from The Lexington)
A New England (Live from Wembley)
Tooth & Nail EPK
Interview With Billy Bragg and Andrew Collins
Greg is a regular contributor and co-founder at Nanobot. He enjoys live music and singer/songwriters who challenge laziness and the current human condition for the better.