by / January 19th, 2009 /

Billy Childish & The Musicians of the British Empire, Whelan’s, Dublin

‘I wanted to use the Union Jack as a backdrop but I was told that wouldn’t go down very well’¦I wonder why’¦?’, Childish sighs, ever the contrary devil before launching into another rib-rattling garage gem.

Like his fellow grumpy old stalwart Mark E. Smith, Mr. Childish has been at this racket for an awfully long time, peddling his uncompromising three chord bashing garage-punk dirges, falling in and out of favour with the hipsters for over twenty years. Still as obstinate as ever what you see is what you get at a Childish gig, a wizened crumpled-up man in Rupert the Bear trousers and a ruffled shirt bemoaning the decaying wasteland of modern society and if you don’t like it the bloke with the tattoo on his head will tell you otherwise. Loudly.

Snarling and snapping, spraying spittle on the front row, Childish is not one for bowing down to the baying crowd of sycophants. In this age of insipid musicians kowtowing to their audience his churlish nature is quite refreshing. When he arrives on stage with the message ‘I was trying to think of songs you’d know’ his dismay at our presumed ignorance is barely disguised.

It’s not all sneering and contempt though and as time goes on Childish relaxes, breaking into Shadows-style jigging when he launches into a blistering version of ‘Comanche’ and even grudgingly complying with an audience members request for the caustic, ‘Joe Strummer’s Grave’; a seething critique on the vile nature of consumerism that sees Billy vilify Richard Branson and his facial hair.

Later, sharing winks and giggles from the side of the stage he relinquishes singing duties to the Holly GoLightly soundalike Nurse Julie for the razor-sharp Shangri-La style cautionary tale to indie-girls everywhere ‘He’s Making A Tape’.

Ending the night with a traditional military salute and a twisted grin, Childish ironically in tune with his old adversary Mrs. Thatcher is not for turning but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Whelan’s 16/01/2009

Photo from Flickr.