My posting has been rather irratic the last couple of weeks because I have started another blog at a different location. The new blog is still in development mode and follows a different theme, once it is fully functional I’ll post the link here. I still plan to update both, but a lot of my focus has been on that one whilst it gets up and running.
I really wanted to write a post today though about the Billy Bragg concert that Rob and I went to see at the weekend at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. The music hall is a brilliant venue. It brought back memories of the Brixton Academy in London (another grand old theatre put to new use). I loathe stadium concerts, and therefore rarely see any of the mega bands when they come to Toronto (that and the fact I can’t be bothered sitting at Ticketmaster so that I can search for tickets on the minute that their release is announced, only to find out three minites after the release time that they’re all sold out – how does that happen?). There’s something about having to pay $15 for a beer that you queue for 30 minutes to buy before being hurded back to your seat by a neanderthal in a headset that just takes the soul out of the experience for me.
So there we were about 600 of us in this lovely old concert hall waiting to see Billy Bragg. The doors opened at 7pm. His support act came on at 9pm. Rob and I were a bit fidgety about this since the concert was on a Sunday and Rob had to go to work the next day. But Seth Layman, the support act and then Billy Bragg, who came on immediately after, had us absolutely tranfixed. It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It was so strange – no light shows, backing bands or choreographed routines – just a man on stage with an instrument. In Seth’s case this was a violin (or was it a fiddle?) that he played like the devil himself.
Billy Bragg developed a real rapport with the crowd, making jokes about football, telling anecdotes about other venues in Canadian cities and of course there was the usual helping of political messages. The one thing that surprised me, given the content of a lot of his songs, was his lack of cynicism. The overall message was that we all still have the choice whether to speak up or not when we feel something is not right and that if we can do that then we can still make a difference in the world. It was odd to see this grey haired 48 year old up on stage singing protest songs, when he is at the age where usually people have mellowed or sold out. His age gives him more credibility and he is not beyond sending himself up.
He played two encores, during which I heard the only songs from Billy Bragg I actually knew (the ones from the ’80’s!) not having listened to his more recent albums. I’ll be downloading his new ones though as well as Seth Layman’s debut album. If he is half as good recorded as he was live it will be worth it.
I felt quite cool and with it as we drove back to Burlington at midnight on a ‘school night’. There’s life in the old suburban dog yet..