Billy Bragg @ Turner Hall Ballroom
Sept. 9, 2010
playing tonight, Burt Bacharach?” a Bragg fan loudly said as he surveyed the
scene. The diverse crowd included middle-aged folks who looked like English
teachers and young punks slouching in spiky leather jackets.
a short set from Australian folk singer Darren Hanlon, Bragg took the stage,
smiling politely and looking at ease in a polo shirt and slacks. The singer
started with some of his love songs, “The Price I Pay” and “Shirley.”
British Bragg took time between songs to talk to the audience about the many
things that puzzle or alarm him about American culture. He said watching
American television “gave him nightmares,” although he admitted a fondness for
the Weather Channel. He described a stop for dinner at a Cracker Barrel in
Wisconsin Dells as a “horror show,” and recalled the loud, alarming environment
as he sipped on a mug of tea.
Throat Coat tea—if you drink enough of it, it makes you think you can sing in
tune,” he joked.
on the topic, he took the opportunity to speak out against the Tea Party and
Glenn Beck, and delved into British politics as well, but he also declared war
believe the glass is half full,” he said as he began strumming his song
“Tomorrow’s Going to Be a Better Day.”
of Bragg’s most inspired singing came in the form of three Woody Guthrie songs.
He started with “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore,” and noted, “It
could have been written in the last 18 months, but it was written 70 years
ago.” He also played two songs featuring Guthrie-penned lyrics and
Bragg-written music, “Ingrid Bergman” and “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key.”
played two of his own biggest hits as well: “Sexuality” and, for an encore
performance, “A New England,” an upbeat song that had the audience chanting
Photo by CJ Foeckler