Billy Bragg’s current stateside tour, which brings him to Chicago’s City Winery for a three night stand April 12-14, comes after a decade of little activity, new music-wise, from the beloved British songsmith.
Bragg established himself as one of the finest socio-political commentators of his generation in the '80s, particularly with the timeless trifecta of 1983’s “Life’s a Riot with Spy v. Spy,” 1984’s “Brewing up with Billy Bragg” and 1986’s “Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.” More than three decades later, there’s not a bum note to be heard on each of these three sets and are must-owns for aspiring songwriters with his or her sights and pens set on the world around them.
Along with continued winning sets in the '90s, his “Mermaid Avenue” collaborations with hometown heroes Wilco gave him an audience larger than the cult faithful who followed him on this side of the pond from the start. Setting original music to then-newly unearthed writings by Woody Guthrie, the “Mermaid” sets, released in 1998 and 2000, are stellar sets.
While Bragg was hardly in hiding in the '00s – his works as an activist alone would be a full-time gig for most everybody else – the new music trickled slowly. Only two collections of original material in his own right - 2002’s “England, Half English” and 2008’s “Mr. Love & Justice” – came from Bragg the last decade.
After another five years away, Bragg returned to action last month with “Tooth & Nail.” While there’s still some swipes at current state of affairs to be found, “Tooth” finds Bragg looking inward on the crux of the set. While this is hardly nothing new for Bragg, his introspective works here are amongst the best he’s done in that vein in his career, and at this August juncture in it, that’s saying something.
At press time, tickets remain available for Bragg’s April 12 and 14 City Winery shows. His April 13 performance is sold out.
Billy Bragg, 8 p.m. April 12-14, City Winery, 1200 W.Randolph, Chicago. $45-$65 (21 and older, April 13 show sold out). FYI: (312) 733-9463, CITYWINERY.COM.
ON SALE NOW
For more information, contact the venues or ticket sales agencies listed below. Unless otherwise indicated, all shows are all-ages.
Phish, July 19-21, Charter One Pavilion (LIVENATION.COM)
Of Montreal, May 17, Lincoln Hall (LINCOLNHALLCHICAGO.COM)
Pink, Nov. 5, United Center, Nov. 20, Allstate Arena (UNITEDCENTER.COM, ALLSTATEARENA.COM)
Dandy Warhols, June 8, Vic Theatre (JAMUSA.COM)
Newsted, May 18, Bottom Lounge (BOTTOMLOUNGE.COM)
John Mayer, Phillip Phillips, Aug. 9, First Midwest Bank Amphitheater (LIVENATION.COM)
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band, June 29, Charter One Pavilion (LIVENATION.COM)
Pitbull, Ke$ha, June 9, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre (LIVENATION.COM)
Everclear, Live, Fliter, June 22, The Venue at Horseshoe Casino (21 and older, HORSESHOEHAMMOND.COM)
Lemonheads, April 28, Lincoln Hall (21 and older, LINCOLNHALLCHICAGO.COM)
The opinions expressed solely are those of the writer. Tim Shellberg can be reached at T.email@example.com.