Billy Bragg Bridges Not Walls Tour at Crest Theatre
When I first tried to get tickets to the Billy Bragg “Bridges not Walls” tour at Crest Theatre, I could not get the tickets I wanted. It was as though some promoter or some entity bought up all the tickets in the center section of the first 5 rows. The only tickets that were available at all were in Row D at the edge, in seats 101 and 102. I almost said to heck with it, I am not buying tickets to this performance at the Crest Theatre. But then I sat there pondering, staring at the monitor and saying to myself, well, it is Billy Bragg. And I can’t not go. I would be very upset if I missed seeing Billy Bragg.
Mind you, I wouldn’t feel that way about a few other shows I’ve seen at the Crest Theatre, but Billy Bragg is special. For one thing, I don’t believe he’s ever done a show before in Sacramento. He might never do one again. Whatever the cost and wherever the seats — and really, let’s face it, the 4th row is not the end of the world by any stretch — we need to support musicians like Billy Bragg. The world needs more people like him.
My mother had a bunch of Billy Bragg tapes in her house, when I cleaned it out after she died. Although I had not heard a lot of his earlier music, I do know many of the songs he performs. Such as There is Power in Our Union, which was originally written by Joe Hill in 1913, the same Joe Hill that Joan Baez sang about. Some people call Billy Bragg a leftist activist, but he’s a bit more than that. There is an edge, a revolutionary approach to life about him.
You can’t argue with his beliefs. Well, you could but it would be pointless if you’re talking to me. He stands up for the little guy. He wants equality for all. He fights fascism and racism and sexism. Important issues. Even more important today than a few years back. He is the Woody Guthrie of our time, even if he is English, and yes, he sings Woody Guthrie songs, too. He says the reason he tours is to let people know they are not alone in the world. The nasty world of Donald Trumps and the ilk. I was surprised to learn I am 5 years older than Billy Bragg. Not that it matters. I just thought he was older than he is.
The first album I heard in its entirety by Billy Bragg was initiated by Woody Guthrie’s daughter, Nora. In collaboration with Wilco and Natalie Merchant, Billy Bragg put music to a bunch of old Woody Guthrie’s lyrics. I especially liked Jeff Tweedy on California Stars, but all of the Mermaid Avenue albums are fabulous. The first Mermaid Avenue was released in 1999.
After the show, we picked up t-shirts and a CD called Shine the Light, a collection of railroad songs made while traveling on trains. We stood at the table as people piled up behind us. Then one guy shoved his way in front of me, waving his credit card, to buy an autographed poster. I turned to look at him and said, Hey buddy, you just butted in front of me. He didn’t move. See, I speak up. I don’t stay quiet.