Tag Archive: The Levellers

The Levellers + The Selector + She Makes War @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 14 November 2014

Tonight we are assured of somewhat of a party as The Levellers declare early on in the set, they will be playing their greatest hits. The o2 Academy is three-quarters full and there’s a expectant buzz about the crowd; the faithful here and those that just know that The Levellers ‘live’ are just one hell of an energetic blast. And it’s a good mixture of age too – older people and little people – after all The Levellers are very much a family affair.

Levellers2014

Tonight’s line-up of acts are an eclectic bunch. First up and very early (this gig has a 10pm curfew so club night Propaganda can take place later) is She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) one time member of Erica Nockall’s (The Wonder Stuff) band and here in her own right tonight. She’s currently crowdsourcing her new album ‘Direction of Travel’ and doing a bespoke tour in 2015 – but a ticket she’ll arrange the right size venue.  Kidd is a talented individual, I saw her recently at the Hare and Hounds, where she created her music as she goes along, singing or playing and then recording and feeding it back into a multi-layered loop, which she then sung over. Kidd is indie in sound and style, with smatterings of PJ Harvey and Melissa Auf der Maur. Shame it was too early for most the punters who bought tics for tonight’s gig – all round creative talent you can find out lots more about Laura Kidd at www.shemakeswar.com

A jump in genre, we get 2Tone ska band from Coventry – The Selector. Formed late 70s, they’d split by ’83 with singer Pauline Black leading a reformed version for 15 years from ’91. Confusion over differing versions of the band – a legal challenge ensued and Black’s official line up tonight now be the official version of The Selector. They get a good response as usual, the growing crowd bouncing along to the hits from their hey-day including ‘The Selector’ and ‘On My Radio.’  The Selector regularly play live; if  Ska and 2Tone are your thang, then you’ll be sure to catch them again soon.

And then bang on 8.20pm, the venue darkens, to a cheer, the hornpipe jig starts up. Dry ice fills the stage and the rag-taggle-bobtail crew that are The Levellers take to the stage. Mark Chadwick, Jez Cunningham, Charlie Heather, Simon Friend, Jon Sevink (the fiddler) and Matt Savage as usual, fill the stage, bouncing around – hugely energetic live. And start off as they mean to go on; it is indeed a ‘Beautiful Day.’

Chadwick: “Good evening everyone… how you doing…. Party!”  And as Sevnik fiddles, we sing: “….the girl from Fifteen Years ago – has packed and gone away…..” before they take us straight into ‘Belarus.’

It is indeed their greatest hits and they churn them out in frenetic manner. ‘Far From Home’ – the best so far – and we are all singing and dancing away. Then special guests on stage; for this one Pauline Black joins them – apparently she’s gonna “up the game” as they take us into ‘Together All The Way, ‘ while the brass section from The Selector joins for ‘Dog Train’ and we sing the La la la’s….

This rag-tag band-of-brothers are on great form tonight, there’s a buzz about the place – you wouldn’t know we’re rapidly heading to Christmas, we’re all dancing away in the middle of a field on a warm Summer’s day…

Get ready to jump, as ordered by fiddly Sevink, and we do, singing away on ‘Sell Out’ the rebellious political mantra about being sold down the river. Sevink, very tall and lanky, leaps and spins around the stage, occasionally standing on a platform to tower above us – all the time fiddling away – he is stunning in his playing. And then, the man with the didgeridoo is here, garbed in florescent clothing and face paint, the Aboriginal instrument festooned with lights…. the drummer on a single drum marching around the stage for ‘The Boatman’ and next, joined on stage by Laura Kidd, it’s ‘This Garden.’

“Birmingham – can you have too much of a good thing?” Chadwick asks. Oh no we can’t as the man is back on his wooden trumpee. there is only ‘One Way.’ And as they deliver us ‘Too Real’ rolling masses of people float overhead – to reappear from the pit with huge grins on their faces – don’t think crowd surfing is for the young – no, there be older people gleefully floating too.

‘Hope Street’ – everyone is singing. “Just checking you hadn’t fallen into a coma or something…” Chadwick cheekily quips. Like that’s something anyone is going to do tonight, we ‘Carry Me’ followed by “Come On’ to which over 2,500 punters all sing back, much to the band ’s appreciation. ‘Cholera Well’ is it’s usual frenetic delivery, followed by ‘Liberty’ – as more paper is fired over the crowd from a cannon, and we chant “This means nothing to me, to me. The way we were, is the way I wanna to BE!” And after an hour and twenty of true frenetic energy – they’re off. But not for long…

‘Just the One’ – we’re all in party mode now and then we are all red and Sevink is the devil with the fiddle, the whirling dervish – as we get The Levellers truly energetic take on ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ – before a second quick break – before the finale ‘The Riverflow’ – a set which ends to massive cheers bang on the 10pm deadline.

The Levellers just put a big smile on your face, they make you feel life is worth living . They may have matured, but they haven’t lost any of their passion, enjoyment – they clearly have a blast on stage and expect everyone else to do so. They just do what they do very well: rebel-punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

And don’t forget their no logo, no corporate, no advertising Beautiful Days festival, which started in 2003. Next year it the weekend of  21-23 August at Escot Park in Devon and invariable will have a great line-up.

Tonight guest list passes were asked once again for a £2.00 contribution to charity, this year it is for ‘The Sophie Lancaster Foundation’ – stamping out prejudice, hatred and intolerance everywhere. The Levellers have found a way to continue, label and sponsor free, without the mainstream, doing it their way, and without selling their souls to the devil. Blood, seat and tears, really didn’t matter – today, with big grins on our faces, was indeed, a beautiful day..

***************************
Setlist:
Beautiful Day
Fifteen Years
Belaruse
World Freakshow
Far from Home
Together All The Way
Dog Train
Sell Out
Exodus
Julie
Boatman Jig
This Garden
One Way
Too Real
Hope Street
Truth Is
Carry Me
Come On
Cholera Well
Liberty

Encore I:
Just the One
The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Encore II:
The Riverflow

**********************************
Listening:
Levelling The Land (1992)
Levellers (1994)
Zeitgeist (1995)
Static on the Airwaves (2012)
*********************************

Review for Birmingham Live.

The Levellers + Citizen Fish + Gaz Brookfield @ 02Academy, Birmingham 23rd November 2012

All three rooms being used at the Birmingham Academy tonight, including Therapy? in Academy 2, but we are in the main room: All come all yee faithful followers – lets party with The Levellers.

The 02Academy is pretty full and there’s a buzz about the crowd, in eager expectation of a party. There are the faithful here and those that just know that The Levellers ‘live’ are just an energetic blast. There’s a good vibe, man. And one or two people who, even before the gig has started, have participated in some falling down water…

As you might expect at a Levellers’ gig, the support acts will neither be insipid nor lacking in social and political comment. You kinda feel sympathy for solo singer-guitarists who try to entertain a big crowd before the main band come on stage, but Gaz Brookfield is up to the challenge and easily wins the audience over. He exudes confidence, humour and enthusiasm, as he romps through songs on all sorts of topics, including the pointlessness of voting and the plasticity of much of the music industry. Towards the end, after making another dark social comment, he adds that he is available for children’s parties.

Then, to get us in the mood for the main act we have ska punk band Citizen Fish, a band ‘spawned’ in Bath in ’89. More enjoyable cutting social and political comment set to music by a raucous outfit, with a lead singer with a machine gun delivery of lyrics, who looks and sounds like an underfed Ben Elton (in his classic motormouth stand-up comic days). “Let’s get angry, let’s get mad” he sings. An eclectic mix of ska and punk with political overtones. That gets us in the mood for the main act.

And then a tad before 8.25pm, the venue darkens, dry ice fills the stage and the rag taggle bobtail crew that are The Levellers come onto stage. Mark Chadwick, Jez Cunningham, Charlie Heather, Simon Friend, Jon Sevink (the fiddler) and Matt Savage as usual, fill the stage, bouncing around –  hugely energetic live.  Starting off we get ‘We are All The Gunmen’ with harmonised vocals on a blue lit set.  Last time I got to see them was on their ‘Levelling the Land in its entirety’ tour – this time, they have free reign on their setlist – we get the old the new and the downright classic.

“Good evening – how are you doing?” as they blast into ‘Beautiful Day’ and the crowd start to dance. The band are well on form tonight – ‘The Game’ starts of with Sevnik on his fiddle, rises and rises, followed by “A new one…” ‘A Life Less Ordinary…..’

The classics are just that “Birmingham – how are your singing voices tonight? We’ll find out – let’s have a go…” ‘Fifteen Years’ may well be over twenty years old – but we’re all singing…. ‘The Road’ … “every day, every day, every daaaaaayyyyyyyy” with the exquisite fiddler mesmerizing us all.  The whole band bounce in time as they set off on the ‘Sell Out’ another ‘Levelling The Land’ track. We bounce too… The Levellers are a tight outfit, one of the most energetic organized chaos of a band you’ll see touring.

And so the the fluorescent didgeridoo – before leading us into ‘One Way’  – the eco-anthem for the masses – the crowd enthusiastically sing and bounce along. And the songs keep coming – ‘Carry Me’, ‘Dirty Davy’ and the completion to this part of the set ‘Cholera Well.’

Quick break and then; come on everyone – sing along “… far from home…..” We all still partying – “Si wants to say something..” “Liberty!” he screams. The set is filled with dry ice, white lit. And Sevnik cranks it up – we’re still singing, partying, dancing:  “This means nothing to me…the way we want to BE!”

“Thank you, cheers”. The crowd start to leave – as the band leave and roadies swap the set – but no it’s not quite over. The Levellers have invited local talent – singers and musicians to join them on stage for a number. So as the already crowded stage swells  “Well it’s that time of the evening, musicians representing the locality, have said ‘I wanna play with the Levellers’…” and we’re into a pretty good rendition of ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’.

The Levellers were on great form tonight, there was a buzz in the crowd were you wouldn’t know it was nearly mid-Winter – imagining we were dancing away in the middle of a field on a warm Summer’s day.  These guys just put a big smile on your face – they may have matured, but they haven’t lost any of their passion, enjoyment – they clearly have a blast on stage and expect everyone else to do so. There may have been no ‘Beanfield’, ‘Hope Street’ or their dervish rendition of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ but they just keep it simple – they just do what they do very well: punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

Tonight guest list passes were asked for a £2.00 contribution to charity – don’t mind if I do. The Levellers aint daft, they’ve found a way to continue, without the mainstream, doing it their way, and without selling their souls to the devil, yet still able to play to nearly 3,000 people in a gig. And have over 40,000 followers on that old Facebook thing. And they’ve been recording, they’ve recently released their tenth studio album ‘Static on The Airwaves’.

And every year they do the true ‘No Logo’ festival Beautiful Days – which celebrated 10 years in 2012. No corporate sponsorship, no branding, no advertising.  2012  line-up including Frank Turner, PIL, the Model Army, The Waterboys … plus a huge list of others. 2013 tickets are available – £120 to camp 16-18 August in Devon. 2013 is their 25th anniversary. They will be back –  not just one way, but their way. Come and party.

**************

Setlist:

  1. We Are All Gunmen
  2. Beautiful Day
  3. The Game
  4. Life Less Ordinary
  5. Fifteen Years
  6. Truth Is
  7. The Road
  8. Sell Out
  9. Raft of the Medusa
  10. Before the End
  11. Mutiny
  12. The Boatman
  13. Boatmen Jig
  14. Our Forgotten Towns
  15. One Way
  16. Carry Me
  17. Dirty Davey
  18. Riverflow
  19. Cholera Well

Encore 1:

  1. Far From Home
  2. Liberty Song

Encore 2:

  1. The Recruiting Sergeant

 

**********************************

Listening:

Levelling The Land (1992)

Levellers (1994)

Zeitgeist (1995)

Static on the Airwaves (2012)

*********************************

Beautiful Days 2013 Tickets are on sale @ http://www.beautifuldays.org/

 

The Levellers performing ‘Levelling The Land’ + The Wonder Stuff @02 Academy, 17 March 2011

Review for Birmingham Live!

Back to the 02 Academy again for what is probably the gig of the week. The Levellers performing ‘Levelling the Land’ plus (in the words of Miles Hunt) ‘special guests’ The Wonder Stuff. This gig is, in real terms, a double headliner – local lads The Stuffies are still likely to sell out The Academy, while The Levellers on a normal tour, would probably fill just over half capacity. Subsequently tonight’s gig is sold out, the place is absolutely rammed.

And so to Part 1 of tonight’s performance. The Wonder Stuff formed 25 years ago (the actually ‘date’ is celebrated at their London gig of this particular tour) out of the ruins of ‘From Eden’ whose members would also go onto form the other Stourbridge Grebo band Pop Will Eat Itself. Being at Stourbridge Art College and a regular of the drinking dens of the Turf, Exchange and Mitre in Stourbridge, I saw them come together, form and have success. Stourbridge would empty and relocate to local gigs at The Hummingbird or Powerhouse when the lads were playing. So it’s kinda bizarre after all this time that I get to review them.

The version of the band twenty-five years ago is far different from today’s band. Current members Miles Hunt and Malcolm Treece were joined by Martin Gilkes and Rob ‘ Bass Thing’ Jones (both of whom have sadly departed this mortal coil all too early.) Their timing was spot on, indie music was king, 12” vinyl sold like nobody’s business and the initial vinyl’s of ‘Unbearable’, ‘Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More’, “A Wish Away’ and the chart success ‘It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby’ put them in the right place at the right time, with hard touring that gave their first album ‘Eight Legged Grove Machine’ great tracks – exceptional live. Three albums later, the band split in ’94, never again to record original tracks, only to occasionally re-emerge to play the nostalgia hits.

Their current line-up in addition to Hunt and Treece includes Mark McCarthy, Hunt’s current collaborator fiddler Erica Nockalls and one time member of The Poppies drummer Fuzz Townsend. As Hunt points out later in the gig: “Looking at here at start of a Stourbridge supergroup – Fuzz Townsend from Pop Will Eat Itself agreed to join us on this tour…. (To the audience) Fuck off! I’m talking. It would be like members of Duran Duran joining Spandau Ballet! Cos it fucking is.…”(to laughter from the crowd).

So just before 8pm, on they come Hunt: “Aye, Aye Birmingham” straight into “Red Berry Joy Town”. Hunt has returned to his former self – long tousled hair, leather jacket and cowboy shirt. He’s still pretty vocal, although maybe not so cutting as he once was. Hunt: “Over to you brother Treece” and into ‘Here Comes Everyone.’  Hunt: “Nothing Like Coming Home ey? We wrote this song about a 1,000 years ago. We wrote it in Pigeon Park. Wrote it about Birmingham” straight into ‘Caught In My Shadow.”

‘Welcome To The Cheap Seats’ Hunt makes an acknowledgment to lost talent Kirsty MacColl, who featured on the single. The crowd complete the girlie vocals. Then a track by Hunt and Nockalls ‘Fill Her Up and Foot Down’ before back to Stuffies hits and a plug to the 25th Anniversary T-Shirts being sold tonight.

Then to the older and class tracks of the night, ‘Give, Give, Give….’, ‘Unbearable’ and probably the Stuffies at their best, the venomous and tub-stomping B-Side, played at the original gigs “Ten Trenches Deep.” Worth seeing for this alone.

The set ends and they receive rapturous applause from the audience. Far out? Not sure – this version of The Stuffies are a shadow of their former Grebo selves, the original model contained far more clout, venom and kick back to mid-eighties recession. But Miles is still pretty captivating, still up for the put-downs. A guy in the audience was seen to be wearing  a typical Stuffie / Poppy T-shirt from the day – “The Stuffies Ripped Us Off At The Powerhouse” 1988. They didn’t rip us off tonight. Quite good fun. So if you fancy a re-run they’ll be back on the 15thDecember to play “Never Loved Elvis” in its entirety.

************************************

Setlist:

1. Red Berry Joy Town

2. On The Ropes

3. Here Comes Everyone

4. Caught In My Shadow

5. Mission Drive

6. Circle Square

7. Welcome To The Cheap Seats

8. Fill Her Up and Foot Down (Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls track)

9. Animals and Me

10. Mother and I

11. Golden Green

12. Size of a Cow

13. Don’t Let Me Down, Gently

14. A Wish Away

15. Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More

16. Unbearable

17.  Ten Trenches Deep

********************

Listening:

For the Stuffies at their best: ‘Eight Legged Groove Machine’ (1988)

********************

And now onto Part 2 –  The Levellers performing their classic “Levelling the Land” on its twentieth anniversary – one time anthem for the traveling, eco warrior and indie communities. Set starts of with video footage of the ‘fight’: eco warriors, Thatcher, music of the time and on come the raggle, taggle family troupe that is The Levellers complete with dreads, long hair and a mixture of hats.

The current line up of Mark Chadwick, Jeremy Cunningham, Charlie Heather, Simon Friend, Jonathan Sevink and Matt Savage fill the stage, bouncing around – they are hugely energetic live, opening to the classic ‘One Way’ eco-anthem for the masses – the crowd enthusiastically sing and bounce along.

The main tracks including ‘Fifteen Years’ are cracking tonight. One of the main pluses about The Levellers is Sevink the fiddler, a very tall dude, who leaps around the stage and is stunning in his playing.  They are not a chatty band – they just do what they do very well: punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

A cover to split the album ‘Devil Went Down To Georgia’, complete with red back-lit set, Chadwick raising his hands as horns, audience clapping along and the welling dervish fiddler. ‘Battle of The Beanfield’ (about the ’85 police repression of a peace convoy attempting to set up a festival) still has all the angst and venom about the times – audience in full participation of the words.

‘Levelling the Land’ over – back on for the encore – ‘Hope Street’, ‘ Carry Me’ and ‘Cholera Wall’  – Chadwick getting the audience to clap along, Sevink winding the track up and up on his fiddle. Off and back on for a second encore: the happy-go-lucky ‘Beautiful Day’.

The Levellers are, in general, good fun, with lots of energy, and lots of people of stage, continuously bouncing along. The New Model Army (somewhat surprisingly) do the eco-rebel-against-the-system angst much better. Don’t get me wrong, some Levellers tracks are great eco warrior anthems – but after a while – the songs can get a bit samey, and murge into one another.

But if you like them – you can totter on down to their ‘Beautiful Days’ festival in August, now in it’s 9th year, featuring The Levellers, Carter USM, Big Audio Dynamite and gypsy kings Gorgol Bordello. No sponsorship or branding – like that idea.

And a problem with bands playing an album in its entirety, is that there is lulls between the hits and classic tracks – it was the same with Primal Scream, reviewed earlier in the week. ‘Cos if you’re touring on playing an album you’ve got to play the lot.

On the whole I have to say, tonight’s gig was fun. It certainly wasn’t Unbearable. There was quite a distinction between the Stuffies fans and Levellers fans (made up of stalwart fans, usual eco warriors and family tribe who usually follow them around). With the fiddly links between the two bands, I’m guessing that both bands made more fans tonight. The place was packed from the start at 8pm to 11pm finish. All for 25 nicker. Enjoyable night. Hup!

**********************************

Set List:

1.  One Way

2. The Game

3. Fifteen Years

4. The Boatman

5.  Liberty

6.  Far from Home

7.  Hard Fight

8.  The Dance Before The Storm

9. Sell Out

10. Another Man’s Cause

11. Devil Went Down To Georgia

12.The Road

13. Riverflow

14. Battle of the Beanfield

Encore:

15. Hope Street

16.Carry Me

17. The Cholera Well

Encore 2

18. Beautiful day

**********************************

Listening:

Levelling The Land (1992)

Levellers (1994)

Zeitgeist (1995)

**********************************

More information on the Beautiful Days festival 19-21 August 2011at www.beautifuldays.org