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Billy Bragg is ending the first leg of his 2012 summer tour, but he will hit the road again in less than one month, touching Europe and North America. Toonari Post were there to attend Bragg’s concert in Vienna, Austria, on June 1. The show was presented by PSI2 music, the legendary organizer of some of the most interesting acts in Austria since 1987.
A much differentiated crowd gathered in the Flex club, which boasts the best sound system in Europe. There were no opening act, just a simple stage featuring only Bragg and his guitars: the electric one was the protagonist while an acoustic guitar was used for the song ‘Sexuality.’
Billy Bragg performed a two-hour show, playing his songs and engaging in several conversations with the audience. Among the singer-songwriter’s own well-known tracks, he also played an homage to Woody Guthrie. A few years ago, Bragg composed together with rock band Wilco, the music for some of Guthrie’s lyrics, found by the daughter of the late musician. The songs were recorded and released as the “Mermaid Avenue” collection, which was re-released, including previously unreleased material, in April this year. During the show Bragg performed some of the songs from the collection, such as ‘Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,’ which also contains the line that gives the title to the current tour: ‘There Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me.’
In the many on-stage conversations, Billy Bragg joked about soccer and the upcoming European Championship, and he told funny stories about his shopping adventures during the tour, among other things. He even talked about his family and his teenage years. However, it was not just light-hearted. Bragg is well known for his deep involvement in political issues. He has written many political songs along with his infamous love songs, hence the talks about the current state of the world were more than expected. He even adapted the themes in his songs to current issues.
This said, you did not have to share Bragg’s political values in order to enjoy his show. The messages he sent to the audience were mainly of respect, and the importance of general commitment to build a better world. The kind of vision portrayed by the singer is shared by people who can claim different political affiliation, or none at all.
He also focused on one of the biggest problems of our time: cynicism. He defined cynicism as the biggest enemy of society. Moreover, he argued about the internet era, and the duality of its usage. Internet, Bragg explained, allows free expression and information, but is also used as an abusive tool by some. In this context, keeping his usual support for freedom, Bragg stated: “Freedom of speech does not give you the freedom to be abusive.”
Towards the end of the show, he also explained the role of music in the process of world change. He said music cannot change the world itself. Instead, what music does is to gather people who feel the same way about world issues. United, those people can change the world. Music is rather a means of encounter and promotion of a collective action, than a tool of change itself.
Bragg was perfect in reconciling the talks and the music, resulting in an extremely passionate and touching show. It was one of those performances that are not easily forgotten. He created a unified feeling that strung together the singer-songwriter and the audience, whom showed a constant enjoyment of the event.
The show ended with Bragg’s infamous song ‘A New England,’ and a singing crowd accompanying it. After the show Bragg met the fans to sign autographs and talk some more.
Billy Bragg will start his North American tour at the end of June. You can find all the dates here.