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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.

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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

 

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Listening:

Levelling The Land (1992)

Levellers (1994)

Zeitgeist (1995)

Static on the Airwaves (2012)

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