29 November 2006: Levellers – Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

29 November 2006: Levellers - Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

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.

Twice.

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.

10 November 2006: Pro-Jekt + Neon Zoo + The Way Of All Flesh – J7, Nottingham, England, UK

Goth night; two words to fill many hearts with fear and dread but not this one. Being a huge fan of goth fifteen-odd years ago I thought this would be like a journey down a very dark and dry-ice swathed memory lane. Not so….

Fleshy

The Way Of All Flesh

A four-piece plus drum machine from Sheffield – kicked things off in what I would like to call true goth style. Their sound was reminiscent of early Sisters Of Mercy and having a female bassist obviously also enhanced that look. The rhythm guitarist seemed to be enjoying himself immensely and played with a constant smile on his face which was a welcome contrast to the more usual miserablist goth look. The singer appeared a little self-conscious on stage and seemed to be holding back, singing within his capability but he still had potential. At the risk of sounding like a preacher man, perhaps he should try the Jim Morrison technique; have a few more drinks than you really should before getting up on stage and cutting loose.

Setlist

Neon Who?

Next up were Neon Zoo, a five-piece plus drum machine from somewhere else. First impressions were that this lot were a real mix of musical styles, fashions and – who knows? – possibly even sexuality. With a bass player who looked like Eminem and played hunched over like Jason Newstead (Metallica), a lead guitarist from Nickelback, singer and keyboards-dude both from some teenage American new-wave goth band with interesting hair-styles, and a rhythm guitarist like Terry Hall (Fun Boy Three), it was certainly an unusual combination.

Their sound was more poppy than TWOAF and occasionally reminded me of INXS. I think they were contravening the trade descriptions act slightly by playing at a goth night but I might have to just put that view down to me being out of touch with things. They sounded quite polished and competent but were never likely to excite me that much. However, I can see Neon Zoo possibly getting into the charts with a one-hit wonder (to be fair one of their new songs, ‘Skin’, was very good) before disappearing back into obscurity.

At this point I’ll let sleeping dogs die because there was no time to cry. Now was the time for ….

Techno techno techno

OK, it was late, I was tired and had probably drunk too much but Pro-Jekt really did nothing for me.

Another mix of styles – part long hair, part Prodigy and part fashion faux-pas – this three-piece, plus drum machine naturally, were far more techno and industrial than the previous two bands. Straight away I was reminded of Killing Joke’s latter albums mixed up with some of Ibiza’s worst offerings in a crazy melting pot of musical mayhem.

The guitar had a very crunchy sound which suited the music but, more importantly, I really couldn’t take my eyes off the glove-type things that the guy was wearing. To steal from Little Britain, he reminded me of a $hit transvestite and I’m fairly confident that wasn’t the look he was going for.

On the plus-side they did put some effort and energy into their floorshow which was a bonus.

The crowd seemed far more interested than me in what Pro-Jekt had to offer and continued to dance. Unfortunately I’d heard enough and decided it was time to walk away.

My foray into modern goth ended up feeling like a slow kill when I’d offered my submission much earlier on in the night, so by the end it turned into something of a phobia. Old-school goth, first and last and always for me I guess.

Save the drummers

I would like to start a campaign here and now to save drummers in goth music.

Yes, many bands since the dawn of time have used drum machines but surely there’s still a place for real skin-hitters somewhere out there? If it’s good enough for Fields Of The Nephilim, well, it should be good enough for anyone else.

@Jimbob247247

09 November 2006: Flaming Lips – NIA, Birmingham, England, UK

The Flaming Lips are notorious for their shows, with a reputation for a psychedelic circus of performance. They didn’t disappoint with this new tour, promoting their latest album “At War With the Mystics”, a funky yet assertive new interpretation of the epic rip roaring melodies we have come to know and love over the last twenty odd years.

Opening the show in a suitably weird fashion were support band Deerhoof, a trio of bass, drums and lead guitar, playing a perplexing mix of de-constructed heavy metal ambiance, (including toddler like dance moves from the squeaky lead singer).

Although “The Lips” could be seen before the opening number, setting up equipment and so on it didn’t prevent the entrance to the stage being theatrical yet down right trippy. With one side of the stage engulfed by dancers in Father Christmas suits armed with torches, Wayne Coyne rolled on to the stage and then the crowd in a giant inflatable aero ball, accompanied by sexy alien women, naturally.

They started as they meant to go on, with twice as many giant balloons than usual. Due to the bands respect for Chandeliers at the previous nights venue, they had some left over. This little anecdote was taken from one of the many rambling monologues from the lovable hippy front man that interjected throughout the night. Covering topics ranging from the joyous disintegration of the Bush establishment to optimistic advise for troubled teens.

However the sensory overload was more than enough compensation for sometimes tedious and cheesey speeches. Laser shows, puppetry sing alongs, giant glitter balls creating illusions of spinning stars and continuous streams of glittery party string being blasted at the audience left me feeling absolutely spoilt. The audience interaction was astounding, resulting in a mass Queen Karaoke during the encore, a booming cover of Bohemian Rhapsody including sing along words on the massive video screen back dropping the stage. This screen was used to display many of the bands videos, so even short arses like me had something to look at if the lips disappeared behind the crowd. Another example of how thoughtful and caring the band are towards their faithful fans.

Ultimately it has hard to say a bad word about the show as you get so much bang for your buck literally. My only complaint is that it was so jaw droppingly uplifting and crazy that my face still aches from smiling all night.

© Chrissy Mckenzie, www.cultpress.com