Reviewer: John Kennedy
Evidently, tonight’s on-tour artists eschew Wilde’s pithy epigram – ‘The trouble with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.’
Promising ‘music, comedy and Revolutionary socialism’ this affectionate rather than affected ensemble of agit-prop troubadours soon establishes two mercifully welcomed axioms. Not only do some Labour evangelists still retain a sense of humour without recourse to a PC check-list, but also that when more than three of them come together in his name, a spontaneous Jeremy Corbyn hagiography isn’t compulsorily arranged by Momentum.
It’s a cosy coming together of the converted proudly sharing the counter-ironic pejorative Lefty-scum with the performers. At previous gigs, it attracted some soon to be very disappointed Ukippers. Opening duo, Jonny & The Baptists, vocals and guitar, dissemble garrulously before stumbling into their anti-monarchy song Swans, the Queen’s own birds whom they decide need nationalising. They subsequently bring anarchy to the UK. The Monarchy comes in for a lot of stick this evening, undoubtedly a nuclear-option vote-winner. Jonny points out that his Corbyn T-shirt caught the attention of a finger-lickin’ chicken-bucket delivery boy who said, ‘Hey, that’s The Colonel.’ Later on, they lead an arms-aloft, sing-along necro-rant entitled, Why Can’t We Bury Thatcher Every Week? With faux-shock disbelief they throw in a Lady Diana reference as well. How radical and relevant that is to today’s class-struggle can only be imagined. Jonny’s more original riff on his despair with his dad’s reliance on The Mail and Express as indisputable founts of truth and wisdom is caustically amusing.
The show’s original conceit was to be a rally-call to counter the seemingly inevitable evisceration of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn following last Summer’s General Election. The common thread tonight is that although they still lost – they really won by losing for all the right reasons.
Josie Long in mid-pregnancy sensible dungarees projects a combination of Rik Mayall’s Young Ones’ agit-sop, peoples’ poet, Rick, a woman doomed to be judged by her less than cat-walk posture and someone very animated about her being pregnant at thirty-five. She blames a free fertility App. If she’d have gone for the £2 up-grade then those 120 period-free days might have flagged up. She is absolutely clear about inclusivity tonight – all persuasions are welcome both hard-Left and centre-Left – even, at a push, posh Greens. It is in the second act that she turns to the dark side of internet trolling and much, much worse. She calls it the ‘vandalisation of your online life-style’ and the brutal reality that women are always, exponentially, the greater victims. She describes an innocuous YouTube clip of an ordinary bloke who takes his dog for its daily walk in Epping Forest – then super-imposes some of the comments she and others received with utterly no contextual relevance apart from the abusers’ sick agenda. ‘We know where you walk your dog!’ It grips the auditorium in silence.
Show closer Grace Petrie, well known from Radio 4’s The Now Show is an impassioned artist whose songs of protest and celebration are marked as much by their burning sincerity and visceral relevance as they are for their lyrical wit and wry authenticity. Taking up the torch from Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Joan Baez and Billy Bragg et al she skewers the hypocrisy and venality of the Establishment and champions the abused and forgotten. She has a shrewd affinity for assimilating this within a broader canvas of poignant balladry and pithy self-effacement. Her closing praise for the latest US gun-slaughter teenagers who challenge the moral atrophy of the gun lobbyists is rousingly received. Inevitably Trump is name-checked. He, his sycophants and pay-masters ignore the voice of the ‘snowflake’ youth at their political peril – ‘those snowflakes will matter/when they become an avalanche.’
Unity was a constant and admirable aspiration this evening. Indeed, noticeably telling was that all the performers found common solidarity in the ‘ambitious managed divergence’ from never mentioning Brexit once.
Reviewed on 27 February 2018 | Image: Contributed