LIVE REVIEW: Sean McGowan at The Leadmill

Sean McGowan (left) and Billy BraggSean McGowan (left) and Billy Bragg
Sean McGowan (left) and Billy Bragg
Phil Turner checks out the act of would-be folk idol Sean McGowan

“BILLY Bragg saved my life” could be the title of a song Sean McGowan may yet write.

For now, the joy of playing support for his hero on Bragg’s Bridges Not Walls tour is enough for the young pretender of fast and furious folk.

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Full of energy, a mix of Bragg, Joe Strummer with just a bit of Morrissey thrown in, McGowan is as endearing and sweet when talking honestly and openly about his life as his poetic folk-punk songs are powerful and compelling.

McGowan, who keeps reminding us that he’s only 24, had a tough time when he was a youngster suffering from something called sleep paralysis. 

“It’s real, Google it,” he urges us. 

But one day after a particularly disturbing night his dad played him Bragg’s music to him and his life changed forever from that moment on, he tells us. 

And now he’s actually supporting his idol at the Leadmill, the place where an even younger McGowan played in the bar area to a tiny crowd. 

Now he's opening for Bragg on the main stage. 

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You know he's not kidding when he says he really can't believe it.

He jokes about not being Shane McGowan, Alistair McGowan or even Rose McGowan. 

He tells us how his dad taught him to play vinyl by putting on “New boots and panties” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. He talks lovingly about his nan, suffering from dementia who calls him up on tour.

The new EP, Graft and Grief, includes the storming No Show about the drudgery of zero hours contracts and and the rousing Costa Del Solution and the nostalgic and touching Millbrook Road about his days as a teenager in Southampton.

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McGowan combines razor sharp social commentary with personal revelations that are truthful and real. There's no doubt he will go far. 

Or as Neil Young sings in his classic song Old Man “24 and there's so much more.”  


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