27 February 2006: Capo Jr. – The Loft, Cambridge, England, UK

The Loft is an upstairs bar in The Graduate, Cambridge. The stage is at the far end of the room as you walk in with the bar on the far right wall. Tables are set along the edges of the room with pew style seating. The gig kicked off at 9pm with Capo Jr.

We arrived at just before 7pm to listen to the sound checks. The journey in was cosy, surrounded by the comfortable banter of the band, bass rested on the knees and getting stuck on the wrong part of a ring road – but we made it in one piece and no worse for wear.

The gig began later than expected at 9pm with Capo Jr.. taking the stage to begin a set of roughly 40 minutes of their own originals with a good mix of the old classics and some that were going to be a new one even to most of the avid groupies.

‘The Awful Truth’ attempts to tackle the interference masked as concern that plagues our daily existence and the ripples it creates. As the kick off to the gig it was loud, rocking, tight, full of enthusiasm with a groove you could mosh to! Spectacular guitar solos from Paul and the drumming in this piece from Vinnie was sublime.

‘Come out to your window’ is a relatively new song written last summer, I’ve only heard it once live before this performance outside of rehearsals. Set as a conversation, it outlines the desire to get out of a dead end area with its small town mentality and the negative affects it has on the individual. The live rendition had much more punch than the rehearsal, and the syncopation of the piece was perfect.

The vocals in ‘Be Lucky’ were clearer than the last time I heard it. When I listen to the lyrics I am always visually put in mind of a comic book scene complete with shaded alleyways where undesirables lurk. The jazzy guitars in the verse keeps the piece jovial, like you’re standing in the lamp lit street outside the alley, close enough to see if you but turn your eye. The shift to hard rock for the chorus, stripping away the joyous exterior and leaving you right there in the moment, just makes it for me. Matt was stunning on guitars for this one in the verse. The lyrics skilfully present an almost rap rhythm in contrast to the jazz/rock mood to the music. The guitar solo was up to capos usual high standards.

‘I Hope it Hurts’ always gives me pause for thought. From the way I hear it, which may part with the intent some miles back, it is someone raging at the attempted suicide of their friend, the chorus line encapsulating the idea that if it hurts then at least they’re still alive. The wall of sound in the chorus goes straight to the ribcage. The drumming in this one must be punishing. This is one of the songs I have heard quite a few times in the live line up and every time I hear it they’ve added something to the performance.

‘Dead-eye Woman’ is a bluesy bass line with throaty vocals about ‘the dead eyed woman well she swallow me whole, And she flushed my life right down the toilet bowl.’ Kits voice has improved considerably over the years and he took on the raspy chain-smoking blues in a fashion I’d never seen him pull off before. There was a duff riff in the bar before the chorus. It is difficult to keep three guitars together but they picked it back up like pros. I doubt most people noticed the blip.

‘Slave’ is always a crowd pleaser and tonight was no exception. I spotted some people in the audience singing along to it. The lyrics describe a man who fell hopelessly into a crush so strong that they became a slave to the memory of a love that was never reciprocated. I can’t say I haven’t been there and the fast paced, angsty rock puts the vibe across well.

You’re not funny – Again there were people singing along to this old favourite. The transition between the softly sung verse and funky timing for the guitar/drums to loud belting rock for the chorus hits the spot. The guitar solo near the end is a stunner.

The live rendition of ‘Greenham’ is much meatier than on the album. They play the same notes but with the sound right up and much tighter guitars. Kit manages to rise to the tone well and it changes the whole mood of the piece. The last verse reverberated through the chairs.

It was my first hearing of Kent State, but I had seen the lyrics prior to the gig. It has a very sunshine feel to the verse, rage against the world chorus. It takes some concentration at first to follow the lyrics in the verse, they are quite quick but clearly enunciated. The instrumental is beautiful chaos. Vinnie is consistently on it with the drums, holding together the various styles with confidence. Being able to clearly hear the guitarist’s fingers slide between chords in the last verse was a nice touch.

Compassion Fatigue. Probably the clearest I’ve heard this one, they were really in the zone. The instrumental has taken a leap forward in terms of quality of sound and sharpness. It was a perfect way to end the gig and Capo Jr. did themselves proud again. I always look forward to seeing how they have progressed. Keep it Capo!

Anon

23 February 2006: Levellers – The Opera House, Buxton, England, UK

23 February 2006: Levellers - The Opera House, Buxton, England, UK

Buxton strikes me as a fairly pretty place, but this is my second visit and it is snowing again. During the gig, I note that Mark agrees with my thoughts on this and asks the audience not to throw a snowball and break a window, as happened the last time that The Levellers played here.

On entering the auditorium of Buxton Opera House, I am immediately reminded of going to pantomimes as a child. I nearly expected Statler and Waldorf of the Muppets to be on the balcony above me. There is not much Rock ‘n’ Roll about the Opera House, and the three standard lamps on stage help to reflect the 1950s ambience.

As I settled into my seat (I have to say that sitting during a gig doesn’t work for me), The Levellers appeared. Mark asked if we’d brought our cushions, and promised a marathon run of all our favourites. These started with “Robbie Jones” and included “The Lowlands Of Holland”, “Is This Art?”, “The Boatman”, “Julie”, “For Us All” and Simon solo for “When Love Runs Out Of Time”, amongst others.

Interspersed with these was some audience participation concerning “the fabulous lamps” on the stage, although Mark showed his age by thinking that the comments were referring to Charlie’s new pumps. Someone amusingly sang “What a Beautiful Lamp” to the tune of “What A Beautiful Day”

As the interval approached, Mark promises we can have “drinkies”, his best part of the day and The Levellers then delighted us with “What A Beautiful Day”. The audience had been slow getting to their feet, probably due to the atmosphere of the theatre and the hyped up security, but they did finally stand up for this one.

During the interval the majority of the audience headed for the pub across the road, but for the rest of us a trip to the bar is called for. The bar at the Opera House is actually a small room where two staff members do their best to serve the maddening crowd. Ices are also on sale. Fantastic, I feel seven again!

Great timing! I just get to sit down and The Levellers return again. Songs including “Men-An-Tol”, “Far From Home”, “Elation”, “Confess”, “Four Winds”, “No Change” (Mark and Jon) “Burford Stomp”, “Dirty Davey”, “The Riverflow” and “Carry Me” follow. There was a different arrangement to “Chemically Free”, which to me sounds too much like The Carpenters “Top Of The World”. There is also a new song, if I recall, as well (“A Song For Bloke”).

The Levellers leave the stage and Boaksey appears (dressed in a brown suit and minus his usual face paint), playing his Didgeridoo, which leads into my favourite, “One Way”. Then “Plastic Jeezus”!

They definitely left the stage again and came back to perform “Forgotten Ground” and “Just The One”.

At the end I was left feeling that it had been a great night and we had been treated to a broad spectrum of The Leveller’s songs.

And as an added bonus, a foot of snow hadn’t landed during the gig and all I had to do was find the A6 again.