2008/02/18

Billy Bragg's new LP March the third. 1996 boot to celebrate it.

Post dedicated to Stéphane C.Jonathan!

Twelfth album from one of Britain's greatest ever singer-songwriters, Billy Bragg. Reminiscent of his work on the classic album 'Workers Playtime', this album once again finds Billy balancing the personal and political with aplomb, making this an essential addition to his already impressive canon. Includes the tracks 'I Keep Faith', 'M For Me' and 'If You Ever Leave'. This limited edition also includes a bonus disc of the whole album recorded acoustically. (Amazon...)
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To celebrate the new LP, here is a Radio Quality FM gig in Stockholm, from 1996.

Billy Bragg in Stockholm, 1996.


Brother Dave saw him live a couple of months ago:


Well, needless to say, last night was great. It was my first time seeing Billy Bragg. I'm not really that familiar with his music. I was more interested in seeing a legend live. So, the venue is a legendary one here in the Eastern US. The Birchmere is located just outside of Washington DC in the suburb of Alexandria, VA. It's one of the most populated areas in the US. For that reason they are able to book acts that would not normally play in the US as, with such a huge populace, there's bound to be an audience for whomever is playing. And Billy really is considered a cult artist here, although he found a wider audience with the Woody Guthrie tribute albums he did with the band Wilco, who are pretty big here. Though a hugely successful venue, The Birchmere has quite a strange set-up. The best was I could describe it would be a dinner theater. My first visit there was a few weeks ago to see Nick Lowe. It probably seats about 300-400 people. It was SOLD OUT, which was great.

Just before Billy hit the stage, The Impressions' "Meeting Over Yonder" started blasting from the speakers which put a wide grin on my face. Billy took the stage about 8:30pm. It was just him and one electric and one acoustic guitar. The guy looked really good. Smart black trousers and red button up shirt. A bit of gray above the ears, but the same barnet after all these years. The sound was superb, especially the tone on his electric. I don't know all the tunes he played, but he started with a couple of new songs from a record he says was done and would be out early next year. EVERY NEW SONG HE PLAYED I REALLY REALLY LIKED. One thing I didn't expect was how much he interacts with the crowd. Not so much a conversation, but social commentary, really funny anecdotes, at some points a history lesson on a myriad of topics including English and US politics. I even learned a few things about US history. It had a real "VH1 Storytellers" vibe to the proceedings. Now as much as I enjoyed that, at times I thought he could have played 3 or 4 songs at the end of each of his between song banter sessions. More an observation than a negative comment.

Some of the songs he played that I remember that struck a note were, "To Have And To Have Not", "Sexuality", "There Is Power In A Union", "Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards", "The Saturday Boy" along with 4 or 5 Woody Guthrie tunes as he said his trip to the States was for some benefit in which they wanted him to play an entire set of Woody's songs. And of course all the NEW songs were fab! It was interesting to me as one of the things he seemed to do was switch back and forth singing with and without a cockney accent. And his voice is really quite strong and powerful.

A couple of other cool moments. He said that they put a bunch of artists names in a hat and pull out two of which they let the audience choose one to play. This night was The Carpenters and Bob Dylan. Of course the audience, taking the piss, voted for The Carpenters. Billy started playing, "Superstar", which I actually dig, and he was doing a groovy, moody take on it. He got to the chorus and asked for help from the audience, of which maybe 10 sang along. He kinda playfully took a few stabs, saying we were the ones that chose it and we couldn't even make the effort to help him out. He then tore into some Dylan tune that sounded familiar, but I'm not a Dylan guy so I'm not sure what it was, but he killed it. But, here's the strange thing, right after I think he took a shot at Weller. This is what he said, "What did you think I was gonna do, Close To You? I don't do Bacharach! And you ain't gonna see my songs in a car commercial either." Of course, "Close" is on Studio 150 and "Start" is in a Cadillac commercial here in the States. Seems like a connection to me. Maybe I was just seeing it cause I'm a Weller guy. What do you think?

And finally, during the encore there was a moment when someone yelled out a request. And Billy countered with probably one of the better responses I've heard when this happens at an intimate show like that. Very jokingly, he said, "Now sweetheart, that's the easy part, all you've got to do is remember the title. I've got to remember the chords, the key, the lyrics, not to mention the meandering 5 minute rap about the song." It was quite funny.

All in all, a night to remember for me, indeed. A super evening with a smart, witty, fantastic, and legendary artist. I'm definitely anticipating his new record and borrowed his box sets from my mate to digest, which made him very happy.

Peace and SOUL,
Dave...




1 comment:

HeavySoulBrutha DaveB. said...

Cheers Yann! I saw Billy a few months ago and here's a review I did for the show.

Well, needless to say, last night was great. So, the venue is a legendary one here in the Eastern US. The Birchmere is located just outside of Washington DC in the suburb of Alexandria, VA. It's one of the most populated areas in the US. For that reason they are able to book acts that would not normally play in the US as, with such a huge populace, there's bound to be an audience for whomever is playing. And Billy really is considered a cult artist here, although he found a wider audience with the Woody Guthrie tribute albums he did with the band Wilco, who are pretty big here. Though a hugely successful venue, The Birchmere has quite a strange set-up. The best was I could describe it would be a dinner theater. My first visit there was a few weeks ago to see Nick Lowe. It probably seats about 300-400 people. It was SOLD OUT, which was great.

Just before Billy hit the stage, The Impressions' "Meeting Over Yonder" started blasting from the speakers which put a wide grin on my face. Billy took the stage about 8:30pm. It was just him and one electric and one acoustic guitar. The guy looked really good. Smart black trousers and red button up shirt. A bit of gray above the ears, but the same barnet after all these years. The sound was superb, especially the tone on his electric. I don't know all the tunes he played, but he started with a couple of new songs from a record he says was done and would be out early next year. EVERY NEW SONG HE PLAYED I REALLY REALLY LIKED. One thing I didn't expect was how much he interacts with the crowd. Not so much a conversation, but social commentary, really funny anecdotes, at some points a history lesson on a myriad of topics including English and US politics. I even learned a few things about US history. It had a real "VH1 Storytellers" vibe to the proceedings. Now as much as I enjoyed that, at times I thought he could have played 3 or 4 songs at the end of each of his between song banter sessions. More an observation than a negative comment.

Some of the songs he played that I remember that struck a note were, "To Have And To Have Not", "Sexuality", "There Is Power In A Union", "Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards", "The Saturday Boy" along with 4 or 5 Woody Guthrie tunes as he said his trip to the States was for some benefit in which they wanted him to play an entire set of Woody's songs. And of course all the NEW songs were fab! It was interesting to me as one of the things he seemed to do was switch back and forth singing with and without a cockney accent. And his voice is really quite strong and powerful.

A couple of other cool moments. He said that they put a bunch of artists names in a hat and pull out two of which they let the audience choose one to play. This night was The Carpenters and Bob Dylan. Of course the audience, taking the piss, voted for The Carpenters. Billy started playing, "Superstar", which I actually dig, and he was doing a groovy, moody take on it. He got to the chorus and asked for help from the audience, of which maybe 10 sang along. He kinda playfully took a few stabs, saying we were the ones that chose it and we couldn't even make the effort to help him out. He then tore into some Dylan tune that sounded familiar, but I'm not a Dylan guy so I'm not sure what it was, but he killed it. But, here's the strange thing, right after I think he took a shot at Weller. This is what he said, "What did you think I was gonna do, Close To You? I don't do Bacharach! And you ain't gonna see my songs in a car commercial either." Of course, "Close" is on Studio 150 and "Start" is in a Cadillac commercial here in the States. Seems like a connection to me. Maybe I was just seeing it cause I'm a Weller guy. What do you think?

And finally, during the encore there was a moment when someone yelled out a request. And Billy countered with probably one of the better responses I've heard when this happens at an intimate show like that. Very jokingly, he said, "Now sweetheart, that's the easy part, all you've got to do is remember the title. I've got to remember the chords, the key, the lyrics, not too mention the meandering 5 minute rap about the song." It was quite funny.

All in all, a night to remember for me, indeed. A super evening with a smart, witty, fantastic, and legendary artist. I'm definitely anticipating his new record and borrowed his box sets from my mate to digest, which made him very happy.


Peace and SOUL,
Dave...