I can’t pretend that I was a huge fan, but I’ve always liked what I heard and always admired his politics and his passion. So when he played a gig about 2 miles from my house – well I had to go.
It was part of the annual Gate to Southwell Folk Festival (which lasts all weekend), but at times it felt like a strange mix. Playing to an inherently conservative (with a small c) audience of older (I was one of the youngest audience members) of folk music fans; in a strongly Conservative (with a large C) electoral area, it would be interesting to see how the politics and passion would play out.
Initially the set was very folky as Bragg talked about how he now embraces the folk scene – and how it will allow him to grow old and still be welcomed in the scene. He played his folkier tracks and also some Woody Guthrie numbers he’s been working on.
I can’t list the songs played as I didn’t know them to begin with, but even stood on his own on stage (apart from one person in the wings who was making him cups of herbal tea!) he held the audience’s attention throughout.
The second half of the set became more political and songs and talk of the unions and of keeping the faith and losing our cynicism to eventually overturn the Government were well, if not over-enthusiastically, received by the audience.
But then it was back to familiar territory and the encore finished with a good old-fashioned sing-a-long to New England.
The audience, young and old, c/Conservative or not, left humming along to themselves and probably musing on the fact that at the end of the day nearly all great music is about falling in or out of love.
I thought Bragg was excellent and I’m off now to try and find some of his CDs.