Concert Review: Billy Bragg (Carolina Theatre of Durham)

BY MARK DOLEJS Billy Bragg opened the second stop of his USA & Canada Tour 2022 in Durham on Wednesday night, September 28th. Alice ...


Billy Bragg opened the second stop of his USA & Canada Tour 2022 in Durham on Wednesday night, September 28th. Alice Phoebe Lou opened the evening with a 45-minute set, and periodically through the night, Jacob Stoney accompanied Bragg on keyboards.

During Bragg's two-hour set at the Carolina Theatre, he shared songs from nine of his albums including "The Milkman of Human Kindness" and "To Have and to Have Not" from his 1983 debut Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy.

Throughout the night, between songs, Bragg talked about many of the issues on his heart. The self-proclaimed leftist activist shared his views on Queen Elizabeth, fascism, recycling, libertarians, the climate and global warming, unions and Trump. He also talked about the importance of empathy in the world we now live in and how cynicism is our real enemy.

His latest album, The Million Things That Never Happened, features songs written in the last couple of years. Bragg belted out six songs from this album during the show, but I identified the most with, "Ten Mysterious Photos That Can't be Explained." This song reflects on the way the Internet has endless possibilities for each of us to go down rabbit holes, seeking both useful and useless information.

My first introduction to Bragg's music was shortly after his debut record was released, when I was 18. While this record made a big impact on me at the time, I never bought any of his other albums. After this show, I regret not keeping up with Bragg's music over the last four decades. His songwriting is both topical and beautiful, he doesn't miss a beat when it comes to the issues of the day.

Singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou nervously took the stage to open the night with her songs "Girl on an Island" and "Underworld." While sharing anecdotes between songs, someone yelled, "Who are you?" and Lou answered, "I'm still trying to figure that out." Despite that reply, Lou comes across quite confident in her skin as she moves from song to song throughout her set.

The first six songs she played were all sung while she played an acoustic guitar and for the last four songs, she played an electric guitar. Regardless of which guitar she was playing, her songs were all shared with an incredible amount of passion and brilliance.

Before her set ended, a fan yelled out "I love you." She replied, "Some of you love me, some don't know who I am, I love it!"
Photography is an avenue that Mark Dolejs uses to learn about the people and places that cross his path. After more than 30 years as a photojournalist, Mark enjoys concert, macro, and roadside photography.

Follow Mark on Instagram at @solidrockpix.


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Strange Carolinas is the Travelogue Of The Offbeat, a wry look at the interesting, unique, and offbeat roadside attractions, people, music, art, food, and festivals in North and South Carolina.


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