As I entered the venue I was given a yellow piece of paper with the words “Welcome to the best live act this planet has ever seen”.
Well no, actually. But the point is it should have done (It said, “No stage diving. No crowd surfing and no blah, blah, blah…” and was one of those “you’ve come here for a good night out but we’re going to spoil it” type things. Unusually, I don’t think it banned the use of cameras or recording equipment, but I was glad I’d left my camera at home as the security search on the way in was pretty tight), because that, without question, is what the Levellers are.
Before even finding the venue I had a nice run round Wolverhampton, trying to find the box office to pick up the ticket (it eventually turned out to be in a pub just around the corner from the venue). I was impressed by the general helpfulness of the population. Even the ticket tout guided me in the right direction.
After entering the venue, I made straight for the bar (after a quick trip to the toilet where I encountered three blokes who called everyone Dave and didn’t seem to be able to find the way out, until they realised they’d run out of beer) and from there moved to the main hall, which was by this time, already packed out.
I took up my position about three quarters of the way back from the stage and just caught the last couple of Damien Dempsey numbers. He seemed to be entertaining the crowd very well, although I am totally unfamiliar with his work.
Damien Dempsey had warmed the crowd up well and there was an expectant buzz about the place as we all waited for the Levellers to appear.
At about a quarter past nine the Levellers appeared and launched straight into “England My Home”. Wulfrun Hall went wild like it had been starved of good music since time began. Jeremy bounced up and down and the front half of the hall bounced up and down in unison.
We were then treated to “15 Years”, during which Jon passed at least one bra to Simon, “Last Man Alive” and “The Road”, before Simon, wearing his black cowboy hat, took over the vocal duties for “For Us All”.
Mark was enjoying a bit of banter between songs and Jon and Jeremy were swapping sides of the stage a lot of the time and generally creating a lot of movement. Matt was looking manic at times on the keyboards.
We then enjoyed “Wheels” and “What A Beautiful Day”, before Simon was left alone on the stage to give us a storming version of “When Love Runs Out Of Time”, with the crowd actually giving it the respect it deserves for once instead of nattering all the way through it. In fact I was generally impressed by the attentiveness of the crowd to the music at this venue, which made a nice change, although there was a group of lads close by who seemed more interested in shouting about their knitting patterns all night. Thankfully, they became too drunk to do anything but concentrate on standing up by the end of the evening.
Simon was rejoined on stage by the rest of the band as we went into a rousing “Men An Tol” and then “Hope Street”. I’m not sure what happened with “Hope Street”, but it seemed a little slower than normal and not as punchy. Perhaps it was just me.
As Charlie started the count in to the next number he banged his sticks together “one” and then again “two” and then missed the third bang of the sticks completely and then fell about laughing. At the next attempt, composure regained, we were launched into “Confess”. I love this song and it shows that the Levellers new material sits seamlessly alongside the older classics.
“Forgotten Ground” followed, which is the first time I’ve heard the electric version for ages. A welcome return to the set list.
Storming versions of “Carry Me”, “Dirty Davey”, “The Game” and “The Riverflow” closed the set.
But shortly after, Boaksey appeared in what looked like full make up and with his Didgeridoo for the intro to the classic “3 Friends”, which was followed by “One Way”.
By this time the lights on the volume meter near the back of the hall were firmly stuck on red. The louder the better.
An unintentionally extended version of “Liberty” followed. This got off to a rocking start, with the crowd going wild and bouncing up and down. The band seemed to take off at this point, moving about the stage and spinning around with great energy, until we lost one guitar to a slippery floor as Mark took a tumble. The rest kept it going as best they could, with broad smiles on their faces, and it went into an extended version with a lack of bass while Jeremy hauled Mark back to his feet. Mark slowly regained his composure (and the missing guitar part returned to the mix) and laughed his way into the final verse. I think most of the venue was unaware that anything had happened.
They left the stage to roars of approval, and returned moments later with Simon introducing the Levellers new tumbling act, Mr Mark Chadwick.
They finished with “What You Know”, Jeremy screaming “faster, faster, faster” into his mic until the band were a blur of speed.
They took the applause and left the delighted audience to go and find a well deserved drink.
If you’ve never seen the Levellers live go and see them, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you’ve seen them before, go and see them again, they only ever get better.
Setlist; England My Home / 15 Years / Last Man Alive / The Road / For Us All / Sell Out / Wheels / What A Beautiful Day / When Love Runs Out Of Time / Men An Tol / Hope Street / Confess / Forgotten Ground / Carry Me / Dirty Davey / The Game / The Riverflow / Break / / 3 Friends, One Way, Liberty (extended Mark takes a tumble mix) / Break / What You Know.