On Black Friday, the founder of Red Wedge Billy Bragg played highlights from “the first Pandemic Blues album of our time” and more as he wowed audiences at The Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. On the penultimate day of his UK tour, Bragg returned to the Kent coast, where, years earlier, he recalls performing “in a basement or a cellar”, to play with a crowd Crowded accommodating, all were seated. Billy quipped that on the day he played on stage no more than two feet tall in front of a crowd he “lost control”, where today the crowd “can’t control itself … that is why there is a period”.
Bragg’s first visit to Folkestone was with Andy Kershaw during the “Bragg mania” days when he described his technique as “bash ’em out Bragg”. Nearly 4 decades later, Billy Bragg has softened a little, grown older, wiser, and learned to sing. He at one point apologized for his “slightly gruff voice” but went on to say, “who heard me back then, it doesn’t make much of a difference”, going on to say, “I’ve Life is a riot like an encore one time, almost killed me. “Someone once said to his manager, ‘Oh my, I feel like I’ve seen the old Bill again, like he really is,’ and his manager replied, ‘Oh. , no, no “No, he couldn’t play those songs in those days, he’s so much better now”. Billy Bragg certainly hasn’t lost his charisma, his ability to draw crowds, or his passion for opinions he holds dear.
Billy started the evening with an old fan favorite from 1984 – A Lover Singsa song from his second album – Brewing Up with. Then he continued that with a new track – So I saw it coming from his latest album – A million things never happened. Bragg said that the title track on his latest record was written specifically about the pandemic but that the rest of the album has used it as a “backtrack track”. In all Billy has 5 songs from the 12-track album he released through Cooking Vinyl on October 29.
The final song on Billy’s new album is a song co-written with his son, Jack Valero. Ten mysterious photos that can’t be explained, a song inspired by a pop-up that used to be at the bottom of Billy’s YouTube page, was changed at the request of Jack’s mother after Valero said his father was reluctant to make the changes he he thought it would make the song better; including naming the song as the chorus. Both this and the reflection itself Mid-century modern from earlier on set, went down very well with the partisan crowd but it’s probably the last of his new songs that seem to resonate the most. Billy’s Ballads, I will be your shieldstunned the audience as he sang, “In your fight against evil. Me, I will be your shield. When the world loses all meaning. Together, we will support their love. The only thing that’s real.”
It’s clear that Bragg’s ability to write songs has an immediate and lasting connection to his audience because he blends his new material with the old. Even so, he didn’t want to immerse himself in the 80s and purposely didn’t play New Englandor because he “can’t remember the rap in the middle”, Saturday boy. However, he saw the Folkestone crowd as a great version of both Levi Stubbs ‘Tears and Sex from his “Pop-star Bragg” days and later performed a rather brilliant version of Milkman of human kindness from his debut EP, Life’s A Riot with Spy vs..
In between nearly every song, Bragg engages his audience to talk about everything, including Rick Astley and the Blossoms (“his Cardiff contest”), Adele, Morrissey, The Sage in Gateshead – “where the Government gets their advice from . . . no coat in winter… no need to wear tights in the hen night”, discos of the 80s, Johnny Cash, The Ramones, and, only once or twice – Margaret Thatcher.
The most poignant moment of the evening comes at the end of the night. Split my performance with a period of time, and played energetically There is a power in an allianceBragg returned, due to the enthusiasm of the Kent crowd, to the stage of The Leas Cliff Hall for a three-song encore including his signature close out track. Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, Walk Away Renée and Far shore.
Billy’s performance the night before was in Southend, at The Cliffs Pavilion, and Bragg said that while he was there, he said something to his tour manager “that his dad used to tell him about. , looking over the Thames — “That’s France there.” And then we came back here tonight just as the sun went down over the canal there, and I can’t help thinking about what’s happening this week. … What my mother used to say to me, came to me, she said, we were talking about people who were desperately trying to get into the country, and the road they had to go through, and she said, you know, if there’s a place in the world where i know that you and your brother are gonna have a decent life, the chance of a lifetime i’ll do whatever i can my ability to get you there. I was thinking about that yesterday when I read the news.” You can hear the battery drain as the audiance listens to every note and word of the speaker. Far shore.
Billy Bragg’s return to Folkestone, on the penultimate night of his UK tour, showcased the singer-songwriter’s prodigious talent on an evening where he was utterly charismatic, clear and as always – openness, honesty and passion. Still a national event, still not to be missed.