It seems that wherever Billy Bragg goes, a crowd gathers. The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH was packed full of Bragg’s socially-conscious fans on Saturday night (6/30/12), all eager to see the legendary British protest singer-songwriter up close and personal. The Music Hall’s “Intimately Yours” backdrop seemed to emphasize Bragg’s minimal yet effective stage setup consisting of two amps, a guitar, a chair, a stand, and a microphone. The essential tools for Bragg’s performance seemed within themselves, revolutionary.
Bragg was greeted enthusiastically by his fans, and spent over two hours performing a unique two set show. His first set celebrated the life and work of the great Woody Guthrie, while the second set was quintessentially Billy Bragg. What tied the two sets together was Bragg’s left of center sense of humor and, his storytelling dialogue between each song.
Highlights from the Guthrie set:
Black Wind Blowing – This eerie song sent chills down my spine painting a dark tonal picture of 1930s dust bowl great depression America.
I Suddenly Got The Blues – Bragg plucked this old song out of obscurity and played it bottleneck style!
Highlights from the Bragg set:
There is Power in a Union – Bragg stated, “if you want to change anything in society, you’ve got to organize.” This was a crowd favorite that seemed to electrify the air.
The Great Leap Forward – This is a classic Bragg song, and looking around the room, everyone was singing along to it.
When it comes to political singer-songwriters, some do it better than others. Bragg has the remarkable ability of spreading his message in a compassionate non-douchebaggary way that is honest, funny, and entertaining. Not many artists out there, that are part of the social democratic movement, have the ability to juggle both music and message without debunking themselves as egocentrics who actually believe they poop rainbows. Bragg has something they don’t. Balls.