Tom Robinson live in Cambridge November 10: Punk rock 45 years apart and brilliant

It’s quite a contrast seeing Tom Robinson live 45 years apart. Firstly with his band at their punk height and then now, up close and personal, in a one man acoustic set. He was brilliant in both settings and hasn’t lost his ability to write great protest songs.

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Tom Robinson
We Are Queer Britain VIP Reception / Lia Toby/GettyImages

Tom Robinson “Glad To Be Gay”

Among the set list sits “Glad To Be Gay”, it's the one song where his setting for the song has seen real change over the years. The single was banned by the BBC when released in 1978, but still made the charts. Somewhat ironic given his role there as a DJ now.

Over the subsequent years, the shift from illegality to the whole openness on LGBTQ+ is quite a contrast. As is Robinson’s own personal story, including his teenage breakdown, through to his wife and children, which the ‘up close and personal’ setting allowed space to explain. An audience sing along to the chorus in Cambridge on Friday was quite different to a slightly bemused and confused teenage crowd way back in 1978.

A few more hit songs and old favourites, some chat about getting older and replacement knees, but he’s still that same rebel at heart you feel.  Robinson returned for an encore with what he jokingly referred to as an extended medley of his only number one record, an acoustic “2-4-6-8 Motorway”.  The crowd demanded a couple more songs, which he delivered and a brilliant evening was done. 

The relaxed and simple format works very well. Robinson has moved from angry punk rocker to a different sort of entertainer but hasn't lost any of his protest power or sharp lyrical skills. The acoustic or keyboard versions stand up excellently. We've all moved on and changed since his early days too, but Robinson's songs still resonate and we can feel the angst behind them. 

It's quite a shift from that early period in style and presentation, but it's been quite some 45 years in-between. The messages remain largely unchanged though and it's still heady fuel for my much older self too.

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