Four nights ago I had the pleasure of seeing Steve Earle playing live in London. And for once I had a great seat at the gig - front row! I have to say I enjoyed it immensely when I strutted through the theatre past the lesser seats to park my backside on the front row and then neatly place my jacket and drink on the stage. Earle was pretty impressive - alone on the stage, in an auditorium that seated 2000 people, he kept us all spellbound by his majestic songs (and covers of Townes Van Zandt) interspersed with some witty narrative.
It struck me as I cast my eyes over the audience that Earle clearly plays white man's music. In a city as diverse as London you might expect some racial diversity - but if skin colour is anything to go by, there wasn't much diversity going on in the Barbican on Wednesday night! This struck me as fairly ironic when Earle burst into 'City of Immigrants' from his Washington Square album (2007). This is a song written about New York but could just as easily be written of London. The lyrics state: 'City of black, city of white, city of light, I'm livin' in a city of immigrants, All of us are immigrants, every daughter, every son'. It's a great song, with great lyrics that are absolutely true. It is a smart antidote to the pathetic attempts by the British National Party (amongst others) to claim the contrary and to conveniently forget that, yes, we are all immigrants - not just those who have arrived on British shores since the 1950s.
And so, reflecting on this after the show, I realised that indeed Earle the agitator knew his audience better than I. Of course, if anyone needed to hear his thoughts on immigration it was probably one that looked like this.