Photos by Brian Berson

In these divided political times we should be glad to have someone like Billy Bragg that can sell out three consecutive nights at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom and share his far-left political songs. For nearly forty years Billy Bragg has written powerful songs to change the political landscape and tackle activism while also sprinkling in the occasional love song.

Without being overly preachy Bragg speaks to the crowd between songs with humor and jokes while sharing his thoughts about the prime minister of England or the president of the United States whose very names elicit sounds of boos and hisses throughout the crowd.

His activism is not only political, he mentioned on this tour he is trying to do several shows in each city to cut down on travel and reduce his carbon footprint. He also sells and promotes drinking from refillable bottles to cut back on the need for plastic bottles. Bragg made several mentions of the inspirational work of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist making headlines the world over for her speech at the United Nations this week several miles from this evening’s Billy Bragg show. This first of a three-night run at Bowery Ballroom features the setlist he’s been playing on his current tour. The following two nights will be older songs specifically those from his first three to four records. We were treated to classics like “The Milkman Of Human Kindness”, “All You Fascists” and his reworked lyrics to “Waiting For The Great Leap Forward” Not all of his songs are about politics, he commented on the power of music and how it makes people connect and that’s what brought him to write and play “I Keep Faith”

He closed the show with a story about the 2016 election and its disappointing result. At the time he was on tour in Europe with American singer-songwriter and friend Joe Henry. They decided to cancel a show to be able to make it to London to attend the women’s march which was happening globally. While on tour with Joe Henry they started performing the Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are A-Changin’” which He performed tonight with altered lyrics to describe the reversal of progress we’ve endured.
Hopefully, Billy Bragg continues to record new music and tour and keep the message alive, bringing awareness to issues that need to be addressed.

Billy Bragg setlist:

1. Sexuality
2. Upfield
3. Why We Build the Wall (Anaïs Mitchell cover)
4. No Power Without Accountability
5. The Milkman of Human Kindness
6. All You Fascists (Woody Guthrie cover)
7. Greetings to the New Brunette
8. I Keep Faith
9. Power in a Union
10. Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards

Encore:

11. The Times They Are A-Changin’ Back (Bob Dylan cover)
12. A New England

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