The division between Billy Bragg’s by turns giddy and serious song crafting and his more unsophisticated desire to preach politics has been de facto resolved by his absence from the pop scene for nearly four years. His partisans (I’m one) recall that Bragg was a jut-jawed folk punker who, stolidly hitting the stage with an electric guitar, took it as his charge to harangue and inspire anyone within earshot with manifestos that vigorously argued his take on romance (randy) and politics (socialist). His stark and often poignant early British work (now collected on a U.S. compilation called Back to Basics) matured with a pair of career-making albums in the late 1980s, Talking With the Taxman About Poetry and Workers Playtime. In these, the odd straightforward political rant (“There Is Power in a Union”) jostled for space with much more interesting concerns: sex, beer, and, oh yes, thoughts on becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star. He halted this growth with an offensively strident EP, The Internationale, featuring heavy-handed offerings like the title song and scintillating little ditties like “Nicaragua Nicaraguita.” A wan 1991 album, Don’t Try This at Home, went unnoticed. His appearance Saturday is part of a testing-the-waters tour of the U.S.; expect no little speechifying on the effects of U.S. policy overseas, slams at Newt Gingrich, politically correct song interpolations, and perhaps a glimpse or two of the talent and humor that makes him Billy Bragg. Note that the show has been moved from the Double Door to the larger Park West for an 18-and-over show. Openers are Jonny Polonsky and Tiddas. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Colin Bell.