Going to shows nearly every night definitely starts to get old but being able to see a true legend that I never thought I’d catch live is just what I need to get through a bender like the one I’m on. I have this mental list of people who I love to see but have come to terms with the fact that I may never see them live. Billy Bragg has been on that list ever since my concert obsession started. A true legend behind the microphone and guitar, there was no use in trying to hide my excitement as I walked up to the venue. The fact that I ran into my brother and his girlfriend on the walk from the parking ramp just added to that. I may have been exhausted but I knew I was going to have an amazing night.
You may not know the name Billy Bragg but I’d be willing to guarantee you know some of his music. At 61 years old, this politically charged singer-songwriter has been writing anthems for generations that are fed up with what’s going on around them. Maybe the reason I haven’t seen him before was because the timing just wasn’t quite right but now, with the current political bullshit (parson my language) that’s going on, the concert Gods have decided that now is as good a time as ever. Taking the stage a little bit after the advertised start time of 8:30, there was this almost sense of relief as Billy took the stage. All of the anticipation that had been building up in everyone in the audience seemed to lift and, with the strum of his acoustic guitar, the nearly sold out crowd was whisked away into Billy’s world.
Thursday night was the first of three intimate nights with Billy at The Fine Line in Minneapolis. It was the “career-spanning” set where the audience was treated to a wide array of the influential music Billy has put out over the years. If I had it my way, I would be at all three nights and be able to hear all six of his first albums in their entirety (Friday night is his first three albums, Saturday are his next three) but there are too many shows in town this weekend for me to do that. Thankfully, I picked the right night to go as I was able to hear a little bit of everything. From slow and lullaby like songs to the fast and more punk-rock songs, myself and the rest of the audience were truly captivated by Billy’s energy, his sound, and the love he clearly has for not only his music but also his fans.
For being as much of a legend as he is, Billy had this uncanny way of making every single word feel personable. From fake kicking out a woman in the front for some comment she made about Brexit to breaking up what sounded like a bit of a scuffle after the first couple of songs explaining that it would be a shame to be kicked out so early, it was obvious that Billy actually gave a shit about his audience and wanted to make sure they were having a good time. Just a few songs in and Billy had broken a string on his electric guitar. With the venue crammed full of people, it was taking his tech a little bit of time to reach the stage so he invited a guy up from the audience who said he could help. I mean, come on, who does that. I don’t even see local bands do that and here was Billy Bragg letting a complete stranger change the string on his guitar. It was little moments like that throughout Billy’s set that served as a good reminder that, although a true iconic legend, Billy is just a guy with a guitar telling some stories through a microphone. Humble would be an understatement.
As amazing as listening to Billy play was, hearing him talk in-between songs was just as beautiful. A true activist for views that line-up perfectly with mine, it was impossible to not be in love with every word he said. Just like how he sings, he spoke straight from the heart and you could feel it. From politics to global warming, most of the talking steered to a serious nature of things but there were also moments that had the crowd rolling in laughter. His terrible joke about a dead duck getting a cat scan and lab tests was so bad that it was good and, again, just added a whole other side to this performer that I didn’t know existed.
I am super jealous of anyone that will be going to see Billy perform all three nights but am also beyond grateful having been able to catch even one of the nights. A true performer with a heart of gold, catching this legend live was an absolute treat. From the first note of his set to the very last clap from the audience, everything about Thursday night’s show was stunningly beautiful and absolutely perfect. I am seriously honored to be crossing the one and only Billy Bragg off my bucketlist.