I've seen Bragg a couple of times in recent years and though it might be churlish to suggest he's getting better the two shows I've seen - different venues, different sets, different energies - were both amazing. First up, a classic Billy Bragg show, just the electric guitar and him preaching to the converted, offering up those anthems - and then, more recently, a sit-down first half with songs from his Wilco collaboration, creating song-shapes for the leftover Woody Guthrie lyrics and a second half that hinted at the old magic and included a few brand new songs.
I've just posted a recent interview with Billy Bragg where he talks about his most recent album and the decision to tour with a band. So these upcoming shows, the third time at a Bragg show for me, will have him playing a lot of the material from last year's Tooth & Nail album as well as some solo spots to play all the tunes the fans expect. He'll also be taking some of those solo songs and dressing them up in new band arrangements. So it'll be another completely different show.
I've talked to Bragg before, he gives good interview.
His Talking With The Taxman about Poetry was the first album that hooked me in, I bought it on a whim. Had heard the name and figured he was worth trying. Some pretty special songs there, Greetings To The New Brunette, There Is Power In A Union, Levi Stubbs' Tears and The Warmest Room. Wow.
But Bragg was just another singer/songwriter for me - at the time I first heard him. Certainly he was somewhere in-between Bob Dylan and The Clash and at the time I was listening to the Taxman album this was a good place for his sound to sit, those were worlds I loved. But I didn't really follow up. There was Elvis Costello and always Neil Young and so many other things. There was the odd single that I couldn't help but hear (Sexuality) and I went back for The Milkman of Human Kindness and A New England but really what sold me on Billy Bragg's music was that collaboration with Wilco - sold me on Wilco too.
That first Mermaid Avenue album was easily the most played Bragg album in my collection - until Tooth & Nail. So I'm looking forward to hearing the new songs live. When the triple-CD best of collection was released in 2003 I bought that - and then bought up the full back-catalogue.
There's another reason to see the show/s this time around, our own Bond Street Bridge is opening. Most recent album, The Explorers Club: Antarctica is brilliant, the live show was world-class; so good. So it'll be a case of not just having to sit through an opening act, rather seeing two great artists on the one bill.
Are you a Billy Bragg fan? Will you be going to the gig? What did you think of Tooth & Nail? And what's your favourite Bragg album - or favourite songs? Anyone else enjoyed some of the post-Mermaid material of the last decade? I really believe Tooth & Nail is one of his very best. And the two Wellington shows I've seen in recent years have been amazing experiences - the performer so committed, so on; the audience clearly on his side the whole way, feeding off the energy, giving so much back in return.
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