Review by Jan Underwood
Under the South Wales Area NUM’s banner with the words “Forward to a Socialist Britain and World Peace”, Billy Bragg treated us to a great concert and political rant, declaring that he was proud to stand in front of those words.
To kick off the evening Billy had found a young group Dan Amor from Penmachno [a feat in itself, as few in the North know where that is!!] They sang beautifully in English and Welsh about various struggles and life in North Wales. Their rebelliousness mostly amounted to different coloured shoelaces, and their sweet harmonies would only contrast Billy’s gruff – however, it was great to see Billy backing local youth.
A hard-line political poet, Patrick Jones from South Wales followed. He really set the scene, staring with an anti-BNP poem. Other poems were daringly anti-organised religions and pro-female. He finished the set with a tribute to Aneurin Bevan and his vision of the NHS ‘free at the point of entry’ ideals, ‘The Healing House’, set to music by Billy.
On to Billy’s cracking start with ‘The Sound of Ideology Crashing’ – no prizes for guessing the topical subject! He continued with several rare Woodie Guthrie songs, arising from a collaboration with Woodie’s daughter, which could have been written today, such that we are still in the same political mess! Onward with many more political rants which included ‘Oh Freedom’, ‘From Red to Blue’, ‘Which Side Are You On?’ and ‘All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose’. He interspersed ‘I keep Faith’ and ‘There is Power in The Union’ with a call to action. He defined his use of the word ‘faith’, stating: “Faith is international solidarity – there is power in the Union”, linking these two great songs brilliantly.
Whether you love him or hate him, he is a man of action, working constantly at grass-roots level. He even found an opportunity to raise funds for his charity ‘Jail Guitar Doors’ keeping all his fans happy with original signed pictures. He didn’t stop until he had spoken to everyone who wanted a chat and an autograph, which was well after midnight.
The Bangor Socialist Party also had a great night, selling 15 papers, two copies of Socialism Today as well as various books and pamphlets – including a paper and our bilingual pamphlet “The Great North Wales Quarry Strikes” to Billy himself! Countless ‘Youth Fight for Jobs’ leaflets went home with many at the gig. The good feeling spread over to donations on the night (£10), and the following day at a Socialist stall in Bangor, where £15 was raised. If this is his influence, he is very welcome to come again!