Tag Archive: The Selector

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.


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..

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

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

Encore II:
The Riverflow

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

Review for Birmingham Live.

Public Image Ltd + The Selector + Erica Nockalls @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 20th October 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 15.56.32Tonight’s gig is most definitely something old, something new, nothing borrowed, something blue. The shiny and new is Erica Nockalls, something old (as in historic) are Coventry’s 2Toners The Selector and the entirely relevant and slightly blue legendary John Lydon and his band of brothers – aka Public Image Ltd.

We arrive pretty early, before 7pm, and there’s already a queue. Security come out, doors open. Then doors close and security go back in. Okay – what be going on here? 7.15 the queue is growing and we’re still waiting. A quick chat with a security guy who’s ventured out and we discover that sound checks are still ongoing. Five minutes later the doors finally open and we queue to go in. Bizarrely paying punters with tickets in hand appear to be outnumbered by those on the guestlist – Nockalls (and her other half Miles Hunt) have been offering up guestlist places like there’s no tomorrow and The Selector too have a group of people in tow.

As we enter the main 02 Academy at 7.25pm, Erica Nockalls is on stage, akin in leather and pink tutu. “Thanks for having us….” The venue is pretty sparse and usually absolutely freezing cold, as she sets off her rock-punk set. I saw her at the Hare and Hounds recently – she is different and pretty good. Nockalls graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire after which, she’s spent the last eight years being the fiddly with The Wonder Stuff. And she’s worked with The Proclaimers and recently toured with Fink.  “This is my own band – I’ve played on this stage a number of times… let’s see how much trouble I can get in on my own.” An appreciative Hunt is at the sound desk; his tousled head bopping up and down.  Her debut album ‘Imminent Room’ is out now. In her own words “I hadn’t been able to find any good new music to listen to, so I thought I’d invent some of my own”.  The sound check issues are showing, unfortunately the sound isn’t good, way too loud to get a true reflection of Nockalls’ ability.

The Academy is still pretty empty as on come the 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. A big cheer comes from the audience and they start to bounce along to the self- titled ‘The Selector.’ The band are energetic and enjoyable; “get on the ‘Train to Skaville’” ‘James Bond’ all skaed up with their Licence to Kill. ‘On My Radio’ we all sing and bounce and the set finishes with ‘Too Much Pressure.’ It’ll be 35 years since The Selector started out next year – you can catch them on tour in 2014 and back at here at the Academy on March 13th.

Even though we had the earlier delay, the bands on stage timings are now back on track, though bizarrely, and I really don’t understand why, the crowd is pretty sparse. If you take away the long list of people who collared a guestlist entrance I suspect this gig was lucky not to be downgraded to the Academy2 – there must be between 500-800 people here. I didn’t expect a sold out gig – but I expected far more than this.

Formed in 1978, Lydon remains the only sole consistent member of PiL. Their musical sound covers a diverse experimental range of sounds; from screaming chants and bile ridden attacks of ‘Public Image’ and ‘This is Not a Love Song’ through the ‘rise’ of their 1986 release – classically and simply marketed as ‘Album’, ‘Cassette’ and ‘Compact Disc’ – mixed with the trademark Lydon sneer and haunting, rising melodies. In ’92, PiL were officially in hiatus, Lydon occasionally appearing with the reformed Sex Pistols, and in a brilliant turn on “I’m a Celebrity…..” a total polar opposite of what one would expect, but no parody – maybe two fingers to the reality TV  genre, they clearly signed him because of his unpredictability. Far more astute than that, he walked, but we all knew he would have won, hands down. To quote a comment from the time on the PiL website “He also brings quality TV to the masses”. Too right.  Lydon’s ability to do the polar opposite of what people would expect of him, took him to ‘Country Life Butter’ adverts and gave him the financial ability to go back to his true love; to reform and tour PiL in late 2009. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength, playing the US and European festivals. In 2011, PiL were awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’ at the Mojo Honours list. On 28th May 2012, on their own self funded label, PiL Official Ltd, they released their first studio album in 20 years – ‘This is PiL’ to critical acclaim. Track ‘Under the House’ featured in the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony and earlier this week Lydon received the prestigious BMI Icon Award for songwriters – recognising his work with the Sex Pistols and PiL and impact he’s had on social culture:

“It couldn’t be more appropriate and timely, really, considering the body of work I’ve just had to go through and endure to get my Public Image back up again, form our own label and be completely free and independent of the large corporations. This is very, very timely for me. And I think, you know, what took you so long? [laughter]” – John Lydon, BMI Q&A

For Lydon PiL is serious. It’s about their music. Delivered immaculately. This is not about John Lydon misbehaving, spitting venom and winding the crowd up.  Bang on 9pm, the venue is darkened and a single light shines of the PiL logo fixed to netting at the back of the stage. Lydon greets us with ‘Good evening….’ and we’re off. ‘Deeper Water’ is off the new album – this is a song that rolls and licks with Lydon’s vocals as he yowls and purrs. No words between songs and we’re into ‘Albatross.’

“ ‘ello Brum. Are you ready?” The crowd heckle; it’s part of the crack at any PiL gig and we’re into ‘This is Not a Love Song’, still snarly and irreverent, but all funked up.  “Are you there? Are you ready?’” comes the snarl. The technical sound difficulties continue, the band still play on; Lydon “I can hear f**k all… just f**king disortion…” It’s not getting sorted. “Carry on playing…” and the band duly do. “I’m getting a real problem here…” To the crowd: “Now it’ not Johnny throwing a diva…. I aint got no tits….” and slowly, from his side the sound is rectified but not to the audience. The balance is out, Lydon sounds like he’s singing in an enormous tin can – it’s difficult to hear the rhythms within the songs.

“This is what you want…. This is what you get…. This is what you want… this is what you get….” Lydon chants leading into ‘The Body.’ To crowd applause and wolf whistles. “And the crowd went wild…” he quips. The mighty ‘Warrior’ rolls on next – many of the songs are longer editions they are not just three minute; at least 10 each.

A break between songs, as Lydon speaks to the drummer – the crowd start chanting “You fat bas***d…” A classic Lydon retort; “Where’s your f***ing manners? – Can’t you see we’re having a chat…” and we get ‘Death Disco’. The set is completed by new track ‘One Drop’ and Lydon plays to the crowd as they exit stage right.

Back on “You all be tired… you must have run the marathon. Who won? I was there in mind, spirit and complete f***ing drunken laziness…” And we get the in your face ‘Public Image’ which receives a huge cheer before the class act that is ‘Rise’. The sound by now is excruciatingly loud and distorted. “It’s good when they put the lights on you… my god you’re ugly… but not as ugly as me…” Then get down and dance as we get PiL doing the Lydon/Leftfield dance/ trance classic ‘Open Up…’

“Thank you Birmingham – for putting up with us…”  Lydon is totally and completely sincere in his comment.

I’ve seen PiL before. They are indeed a stunning and awesome sight. Unfortunately tonight, the venue that let them down, the sound balance was mostly terrible. A great show, but we didn’t hear PiL in their true glorious colours.

Lydon has been accused of becoming almost becoming a cartoon character of his punk and eccentric image. But what he is, is far more. More than just a national treasure, he provides a masterclass in longevity, charisma and that chameleon approach to being open to create and vocalise, logic and create music in a truly different and unique approach. Fiercely articulate and intelligent, he is far more than just the obnoxious lead singer of a punk band that may have changed the world thirty odd years ago – PiL over the years have created a series of foot stomping classics, utilizing rock, dance, folk, ballet, pop and dub.

Lydon was key to changing the world of music. He truly deserves all the accolades chucked at him and you know really, he’s rather chuffed, regardless of his irreverent demeanor.  He helped to give a multitude of musicians the opportunity to create music for the masses that just wouldn’t have been thought possible to achieve. PiL are entirely a class act – and for all who have been inspired by the opportunity to create alternative music, then surely the opportunity to see one of the most eclectic and revolutionary artists of recent times, on form, is a must.  PiL will be back – hopefully at a venue that will do them for better justice. Get the opportunity, a must go and see.


PiL Setlist;

1. Deeper Water

2. Albatross

3. This is Not A Love Song

4. Pop Tones

5. Careering

[This is what you want]

6. The Body

[This is what you want]

7. Warrior

8. Reggae Song

9. Death Disco

10. Out of the Woods

11. One Drop


12. Public Image

13. Rise

14. Open Up


Listening [PiL]:

Lydon’s response to which of his recordings to listen to:

“I would recommend you see us live and hear what this is truly about, and from there on in you can make your own decisions. For me it’s always been about live performance. That’s the be-all and end-all of it really. That’s the ultimate release.” John Lydon, BMI Q&A


Review for Gig Junkies; Photos: Ken Harrison.