It’s been a long five months wait for the next Levellers gig but, as always, the wait was worth it.
Once again, despite an almost complete lack of interest from the local media, Rock City is packed to the rafters for the second date of the Levellers’ Chaos Theory Tour.
The air of expectation in the venue is almost at breaking point as the warm-up music begins prompting people to push their way onto an already crowded dance floor.
The band appear onstage, Mark sporting a neat new haircut which makes him look about 10 years younger than the rest of the band and Simon wearing his best cowboy hat, and we are launched frenetically into “100 years of Solitude”. The band seem at their very best and the vocal crowd are immediately singing along with every word.
Mark catches the first bra of the evening at the end of the track, before launching us into a very welcome “Leave This Town” (“I remember what you said in ’88”).
Somewhere around here Charlie’s cymbal fell off, but he managed to catch it and hardly anyone seemed to notice. It happened again later on, but Charlie was ready for it this time and it was even less noticeable.
“Last Man Alive”, the excellent single from last December was next and I thoroughly enjoyed it, before we were sent crashing into “The Road”. Rock City seemed to take off at this point as the whole dance floor started to rock and we were bounced into “15 Years”, which always goes down a storm.
The whole show was now slowed down for the excellent “61 minutes of pleading” from the album, “Hello Pig”. I love this song and to hear that it still makes the set-list six years after the, largely ignored, album was released is great news.
“Wheels” sped the tempo up again before a storming version of “What A Beautiful Day” led the audience participation to new vocal heights.
Most of the band left the stage leaving Simon, now minus his cowboy hat and showing off his full head of “Looby Loo” locks, alone with his guitar for his solo spot. Simon treated us to an absolutely blinding version of “Sell Out”. I was gob-smacked after this as it turned two of the normal highlights of the show into one masterful performance (for once Simon’s solo performance was not blighted by the inane chattering from parts of the audience).
What happened next? To be honest I’m not entirely sure, but Mark was on the drums and Charlie was at the front standing with a drum attached to him and they definitely played “The Boatman” next. But was that “Crags Of Stirling” before “The Boatman” and was Mark still on drums for “The Boatman”? If my memory serves me right then it was “Crags Of Sterling” with Mark on drums and then “The Boatman”, with Mark not on drums, but I’ve been wrong before! Whatever, it was damned good.
A didgeridoo appeared on stage, attached to Mr Stephen Boakes in full face paint, and we were launched into the anthemic “One Way”. And the venue went wild. You could hardly see the stage because of the crowd jumping up and down, arms punching the sky. Jeremy seemed unusually quiet during most of the gig but was bouncing all over the place, including the drum riser, during “One Way”.
“Men An Tol” with Simon on vocals again was next, closely followed by “Together All The Way”, dedicated by Mark to your favourite pub in town that has ever closed down (as opposed to just closed, when you can always go back the next night).
And then…. “Forgotten Ground” took us to an even higher level. How the Levellers continue to keep turning the power of the show up during a performance I will never know, but “Forgotten Ground” literally blew the venue apart. There was water showering everywhere, followed by the empty water bottles, lager and all manner of other drinks as the dance floor erupted.
An unusual sight followed; Simon without a string instrument, but he put everything into his harmonica for the classic “Carry Me”.
Exhausted, the crowd seemed to quieten down a couple of notches for “The Game”, the final track before the encore, “Liberty Song”, but the band were still on maximum with Jon and Jeremy swapping stage sides, Jeremy screaming “Liberty” into his mic, before the band left the stage, leaving the crowd baying for more.
The band reappeared for a rousing version of “Another Mans Cause”, introduced by Mark as “a song that’s more relevant now than when it was written”. The thump of the drum intro to “Battle Of The Beanfield” followed and Simon stormed through the song before the speed was lifted once again for “The Riverflow” (can they play this song any faster?), leaving the crowd on another high as the Levellers left the stage once more.
Was that the end? It didn’t seem so as the lights stayed down and there was much stamping of feet from the audience, but some people obviously thought otherwise as the dance floor opened up and there was now room to dance.
The band didn’t disappoint and returned to the stage with Jon accompanied by an additional fiddle player. I didn’t catch the girl’s name when she was introduced (Athena from 3 Daft Monkeys) but she gave him a run for his money during the final number, “What You Know”. This was the only number during which I noticed Matt’s keyboard in the entire gig and it was racing along with the band at full speed, with Jeremy screaming “Faster! Faster! Faster!” into his mic and the band responding to send the song into overdrive.
The crowd were still cheering as the Levellers left the stage, Jeremy with his customary towel wrapped round his head saying “cheers” as he exited stage left and the rest of them gratefully receiving the applause.
On the way in to the venue every member of the audience received a free CD with four songs from the “Chaos Theory” DVD on it. Very generous and I was pleased to find this morning that “Dirty Davey” was on it, recorded at Buxton Opera House on 07 February 2004. Great stuff.
With the CD I was handed a flyer advertising some other gigs, including The Pogues at Nottingham Arena. £27.50 (plus booking fee) to sit and watch/listen to 8 tiny people from a distance of (at least) 30 feet from the stage.
Tempted? No thanks.
I’ll go and see the best live band in the world again with my cash.
Setlist; 100 Years Of Solitude / Leave This Town / Last Man Alive / The Road / 15 Years / 61 Minutes Of Pleading / Wheels / What A Beautiful Day / Sell Out / Crags Of Stirling(?) / The Boatman / One Way / Men An Tol / Together All The Way / Forgotten Ground / Carry Me / The Game / Liberty Song / [Break] / Another Mans Cause / Battle Of The Beanfield / Riverflow / [Break] / What You Know.