Billy Bragg, Crescent Ballroom, 3/26/13

Categories: Last Night

billybragg-12.jpg
Melissa Fossum
Billy Bragg live at Crescent Ballroom. See the complete slideshow here.

Billy Bragg @ Crescent Ballroom|3/26/13
For his first-ever Phoenix show, Billy Bragg gave his all, of all of his sides -- the young punk firebrand, the activist, the lover, the Woody Guthrie acolyte, the folk malcontent, and the Bard of Barking hawking his new album.

Though the new record, Tooth & Nail, may hew to domestic and philosophical songs, presented in a calmer, pedal-steel-drenched Americana style, Bragg remains plenty provocative in concert.

See also:
Billy Bragg at Crescent Ballroom, 3/26/13 (Slideshow)
Billy Bragg: With Tooth & Nail, the British Folk Singer Continues to Evoke Woody Guthrie

The show's framework ensured that -- starting with "Ideology" from 1987's Talking with the Taxman about Poetry and ending with an updated version of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards" from 1988's Workers Playtime.

Bragg himself joked about why it took 30 years to perform a show here, saying that to avoid being pigeonholed as a leftist political songwriter, it's necessary to get out and play places like Phoenix. Then he made sure to stick some poignant in-song commentary on the area's unfortunate politics into "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose," shouting over the closing notes, "Can you hear me, Joe? Woody Guthrie says hi."

billybragg-14.jpg
Melissa Fossum
Billy Bragg live at Crescent Ballroom.
After "Ideology," Bragg talked about his recent visit and shows at Austin's SXSW festival, saying that he encountered an unsettling amount of "hipster ambiguity" relative to the political and economic winds of the day. That's the key to Tooth & Nail's "No One Knows Nothing Anymore," he said.

Guthrie's presence first showed up on "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" from Mermaid Avenue, Bragg's 1998 collaboration with Wilco and the first record that dove into the vast lyrical archive left behind by America's greatest folk singer.

Though Bragg never touched any of the songs Guthrie recorded himself during the two-volume Mermaid Avenue project, he turned to "I Ain't Got No Home" as inspiration for starting his latest album. Saying the 70-year-old-plus song could've been written any time during the past five years, Bragg launched into his new, soulful version of the song, describing the rich bankers and gamblers and the poor workers that exist now as they did in Guthrie's day.

The sharpest part of the night was the mid-set interlude of solo electric guitar songs -- the beyond-satisfying trio of "The Milkman of Human Kindness," "To Have and to Have Not" and "Levi Stubbs Tears," songs from Bragg's early days -- that many in the crowd waited decades to see performed live.

Location Info

Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
12 comments
lindabrownaz
lindabrownaz

Nice review.  You captured it well.  Thanks.


number6
number6

His live cover of Prine's "Hello in There" with Michael Stipe and Natalie Merchant is my favorite youtube video ever. Glad to see he is still alive and well.  

Up On The Sun
Up On The Sun

I think most of Billy Bragg's best songs have a fair amount of righteous judgement to them, also.

Up On The Sun
Up On The Sun

Yeah, I think it's pretty natural, normal, and important to judge -- sometimes negatively -- all sorts of things people say. Oh well -- glad I didn't bum you out, and I'm glad Billy was okay in your dream.

Danger Paul Balazs
Danger Paul Balazs

I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion. Offense is judging what other people think in a negative manner in my opinion. That's just unfair no matter who you are. - I could probably explain myself better, but yeah. I don't get offended... like ever.

Up On The Sun
Up On The Sun

You don't get offended, like, ever? I probably get offended forty times a day. I don't usually gripe about it, but it often happens.

Danger Paul Balazs
Danger Paul Balazs

No, I think something was terribly wrong and they sent me out to look for him. then he turned the corner anyways so I didn't have to look. It was not significant in any way, but pertinent to this weekends concert I suppose.

Up On The Sun
Up On The Sun

Deleted "cool story bro" cause I was worried it sounded dickish.

Up On The Sun
Up On The Sun

Did he impart any words of awesome singer/songwriter wisdom? In your dream?

Danger Paul Balazs
Danger Paul Balazs

I wasn't at the show, but I oddly had a dream last night where I met him. haha

Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...