Has it really been twenty years?
The Wonderstuff arrived on stage at a very early 10 to seven-ish and blazed there way through a greatest hits package which included “Welcome to the Cheap Seats”, “Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More” and “Don’t Let Me Down, Gently”. Thankfully there was no “Dizzy” (at least from what I heard – I missed the first few minutes), which I was dreading, and the packed crowd really enjoyed the set, and judging by the look on Miles’ face, so did the band.
I moved to the edge of the mosh pit for the Levellers and the gig started with a sound and visual show of the last 20 years in 3 minutes. The majority of the events and people portrayed seemed to get viciously booed by the crowd, which just goes to show that whoever you are you’re probably going to get remembered badly by the majority of people, or not at all (I heard one bloke comment after the gig, “They (the Levellers) were brilliant, but how many records have they made in the last 20 years? None.” Well 6 actually, but you obviously weren’t listening).
As it was an album run through the running order was pretty much as the album, so we started with “One Way” – which seemed strange as that usually comes somewhere near the end – had a break at the half way point for some brilliant b-sides, including the brilliant “Hard Fight” (the highlight of my night) and a gloriously fast “Last Days of Winter”, but sadly, no “Plastic Jesus”.
Played just before the b-sides, “Liberty Song” was blinding, as was “Fifteen years”.
There was a spot of trouble in the mosh pit at one point with Mark saying “Be nice” and pointing at people. Security then dived in and probably caused more trouble than was necessary, but the Levs kept going through it all.
Mark introduced side 2 with “This is side two of your vinyl or cassette”, and off we went with “Far From Home”.
A manic version of “Riverflow” and then “Battle of the Beanfield” finished the album off. I can’t remember what happened after that because it all went a bit mad, but we definitely got two encores and “What a Beautiful Day” was played at some point.
Marvelous gig, wonderful atmosphere. Great band.
Has it really been twenty years? It certainly didn’t feel like it…
Oh, and I trod on Miles Hunt’s foot on the way back from the toilet during “Another Man’s Cause”.
Having ended up on the wrong side of the River Witham I missed Frank Turner, but arrived in time to grab a drink before Divokej Bill appeared.
With what seemed to be an infinite number of musicians (well, eight at least) and a bass guitar that tested the eardrums, Divokej Bill pounded through their rock/folk/country/nu-metal cross-over repertoire and managed to keep the attention of the majority of the audience for most of their set.
I failed to catch any of the track titles, but most bounced along nicely and the last number they played with the “Alcohol” sing along chorus went down particularly well.
Lots of foot stomping, lots of fiddle, lots of bass, a banjo and an accordion. If you like this sort of thing you’ll love Divokej Bill.
At about 9:30 the Levellers appeared on stage started with Belaruse and then pounded through a set list that showcased their recent album, Letters From The Underground, and mixed in some old favourites too.
From the new album we were treated to the gorgeous Before The End, Death Loves Youth, Burn America Burn, plus storming versions of The Cholera Well and A Life Less Ordinary.
The band seemed to be in excellent spirits, Jeremy pounding round all of the stage with his bass and swapping sides with Jon, on fiddle, over and over again.
Boaksey appeared with his didgeridoo and Mark introduced the next number as “Anything could happen next…” and the lights showed up Baoksey’s face paint to great effect.
Simon, sporting a black Beanie, led us through Eyes Wide, Fight Or Flight and 100 Years Of Solitude, which sat nicely in its new position in the set list, before Dirty Davey really got the crowd going.
Mark forgot some of the words to Another Man’s Cause, and the band fought their way bravely through until he got back on course, but he was trying to stop two crowd surfers from being man-handled by the overzealous Engine Shed security men at the time.
The set ended with a punchy version of The Riverflow, I think, but it had all got a bit sweaty and hectic by the end and my memory may have failed me.
A good gig, slightly marred by a, at times, less than attentive crowd who spent some time chatting amongst themselves, mainly during the songs off of the new album, which they were perhaps unfamiliar with.
The Royal Albert Hall is an awe-inspiring place. Not for the faint-hearted, to stand on its stage demands presence and the ability to prove to a 6000+ audience that you command the right to be there. Tonight the mighty Hall played host to the Levellers, supported by acoustic guitarist Nick Harper.
Harper is an old mate of the Levellers, but was an odd choice of support, rather like putting Gordon Brown on the same bill as Russell Brand: as different as chalk ‘n’ cheese as you could hope to get.
Harper has been around on the circuit for a good 15 years or more and this was probably his most prestigious venue to date. But, the solo figure armed with just his Lowden guitar, sadly cut a lonely image. This was an arena just too large for his folkish tunes and at times it appeared as if he didn’t know why he was there.
Tonight saw none of the usual satirical banter, nor the often mesmerising dexterity of his guitar playing to lift proceedings. A polite audience response followed little played songs The Wanderer And His Shadow, Evo and Sleeper Cell, although the morosely sombre Real Life and the title track from his 2005 album Treasure Island demonstrated his knack of juggling the thought-provoking with the jaunty.
Introducing his young daughter to accompany him for the last number, CSN&Y’s classic Our House, he was reprising his own debut on the same stage with his father Roy some 35 years before. A sweet end to the set, but overall a performance that will have done little to garner Harper any new fans, and may well have left a few of those who are disappointed.
In contrast, the night’s headliners may well have added a good few more of the unsure to their fanbase. They opened this two-part acoustic/electric set with just vocalist Mark Chadwick and Jon Sevink on fiddle to play No Change, showing a confidence and ease with their majestic surroundings. They were joined by Simon Friend (and later added to with a string quartet) and gradually built up numbers on stage as other band members joined them, pushing the feelgood ambience higher as they embarked on a run through Julie, The Boatman and Together All The Way. Before The End, from their 20th anniversary album Letters From The Underground, gave a nod to how well their new material works alongside classics such as Beautiful Day and Carry Me which came in the second electric half of the night.
By this time the seated audience had risen to their feet and danced happily along to the likes of Exodus, Burn America Burn and Dirty Davey. All-in-all, a 23-number show, with plenty of crowd pleasers, and no doubt they could have gone through a third half with another dozen equally as popular songs from their vast repertoire of the last two decades.
Of course it wouldn’t have been a Lev’s night without the emergence of the didgeridoo for the encore. And its eerily atmospheric strains echoed around the Albert Hall on This Garden, Men-An-Tol and One Way, bringing the end to a night that delivered on all counts.
On a warm summer’s evening in Brighton we walked across the seafront and made our way up the north laines towards Kemptown to the Joogleberry Playhouse theatre. Upon arriving at this picturesque little venue we were greeted by friendly staff who led us downstairs to what seemed to be a secret basement. The room was dimly lit with glitter stars shining on the back wall, candlelit tables and a mock backdrop of a Manhattan skyline. The mood lighting at the bar enhanced the warmth of the cosy and intimate setting. The petite dimly lit stage was set for Mark, Tom and Jason to perform exclusive acoustic tracks from their new albums.
Mark Chadwick performed tracks from the Levellers’ forthcoming album ‘Letters From The Underground’, including the melodic Pale Rider. Other classic songs featuring Maid of the River, Don’t You Grieve, and What A Beautiful Day, with Jason on Harmonica and Tom doing BV`s and Tambourine.
Jason Pegg performed tracks from Clearlake’s previous album ‘Amber’, including It’s Getting Light Outside, Good Clean Fun, Dreamt That You Died, and Clearlake’s new record release entitled One of a Kind, whilst Mark and Tom did BV`s guitars and tambourine.
Tom White played Clearlake’s classic song Jumble Sailing on his own and then launched into The Devil in a Trojan Horse and The Runaround with Mark doing BV’s and guitar and Jason playing harmonica. Both songs are from Tom’s new upcoming solo album called ‘I Dream of Black’.
It was a real treat to hear the new songs from their new albums, in this cracking little acoustic venue.
The artists performed this gig at the start of a themed week ‘Songs from the Canyon’ . The week climaxed on Bank Holiday Monday with a Free All-Dayer including performances from Brighton’s home-grown talents. If you get chance on your next visit to Brighton, be sure to visit this highly recommendable venue for live music.
Roy & Debbie Sandbrook
Billed variously as Beautiful Nights, by the Levellers themselves, and 20 years Levelling the land, by the venue, this was the first, if you don’t count the warm up at Brighton Concorde 2 the night before, of three Beautiful Nights to celebrate the Levellers 20th year as a living, kicking, rocking live act.
With support from 3 Daft Monkeys, who were probably great but who I missed due to an apparent time warp between Walsall and Wolverhampton, and Alabama 3 (Acoustic), who from what I heard were frankly horrific (it’s not a good idea to yell “You’re rubbish” at the audience), the Levellers three Beautiful Nights continue on 07 March at Manchester Apollo and 08 March at Brixton Academy.
Judging from this performance the next two nights should be a mind blowing experience.
As the lights went down, a single spot light picked out a lone figure standing confidently on top of the left hand speaker stack, and as the crowd roared its approval, Jon Sevink and his fiddle launched us into England My Home, and Jon then leapt spectacularly onto the stage.
The sound was awesome, the loudest I’ve heard the Levellers for years and the band were pulling out all the stops to make the evening a great show.
The third song was the A side of the Levellers new single, A Life Less Ordinary (download it for free from www.levellers.co.uk), and it sounds magnificent in a live performance. This went almost immediately into crowd favourite What A Beautiful Day. As the first notes rang out, the wall behind the band lit up with a spectacular backdrop of multiple TV screens which took the show to a new level.
Other outstanding tracks were Men-An-Tol, Battle Of The Beanfield, Sell Out, The Boatman (with Simon Friend taking over vocal duties), Carry Me and One Way, which Mark Chadwick introduced as “Can we have the audience lights on so that we can see them. This one’s for you”. With Stephen Boakes and his didjerydoo rampaging around the stage it was amazing that the band didn’t collide with each other. Manic!
The band also played us two other new songs from the forthcoming album, Letters From The Underground; the double A-side of the download single, Cholera Well and Burn America Burn, which Mark Chadwick introduced by saying “Let’s see how they misinterpret this one”. I look forward to the new album with anticipation.
Dirty Davey and The Riverflow took us, dancing energetically, to the end.
But this was too early to finish and the crowd knew it. We weren’t kept waiting for long and the band reappeared, complete with a three man brass section, and blasted us with Warning, a song I don’t think I’ve heard them play for about 10 years.
Before the next song Mark Chadwick pointed out the new brass section and then we slid smoothly into Dog Train, another song that’s not been played for far too long.
Just The One took us to the end of a fantastic set and some of the crowd started to drift towards the exits…only to scramble back into the main hall as the band reappeared on stage and Jeremy Cunningham screamed “Liberty”. The whole building seemed to shake as the band seemed to take the song beyond where it had ever been before, seemingly giving it a whole new relevance and power. The screens behind were lit up with succinct, meaningful, messages in huge letters; “Democracy in a gift box”, “An eye for an eye, a life for a life”, “The atmosphere is killing you”.
And then we wait as 2 Daft Monkeys appear on stage, introduced by Mark, with a chuckle, as “See no evil and hear no evil, or Beauty and the Beast”. Most of the crowd knew what was coming.
What You Know, as ever, blew me away. It seemed even faster, more energetic, louder and more powerful than before. The mosh pit erupted, taking over a very large proportion of the dance floor, beer glasses flew through the air and the foundations took a battering as even the balconies seemed to be jumping up and down.
You always know it’s all over when Jeremy says “Thank you. Goodnight”.
20 years, 8 Studio albums, live performances numbering in the thousands and an uncountable number of happy, smiling, gig going, revellers. Here’s to another 20.
The Levellers once again live up to their “best live act in the world, ever” tag. Easily.
Misty evening, Twycross Zoo. This wasn’t where I expected to be 15 minutes before the time that the venues box office had said that Drunk In Public were due on stage, but a couple of wrong turns meant I was now miles from where I should be and I couldn’t even see the Monkeys.
A spot of what seemed like night time rally driving, 20 minutes, a broken watch reading 11:50, a quick burn down the A5, three penalty points and a £60 fine (probably) later and I’m at the venue listening to the last couple of songs from Dan Donnelly.
I like Dan. Good songs, holds the crowds attention well and he treated us to a nice version of The Boys Are Back in Town, amongst others.
I’d missed all of the first band, Carousel Circus, but I did spend most of the night stood next to them and they seemed like decent blokes.
The Palace is a nice little venue in what I assume is the centre of Tamworth . It’s a bit bigger than the venues that I have seen Drunk In Public in before but still small enough to give the feeling that you’re all in the same room. Judging from the posters advertising the bands recently playing there, Drunk In Public are the biggest thing to hit Tamworth for a while and the local populace had turned out on mass as the venue seemed to be sold out. It promised to be a great evening, with the Christmas tree at the rear of the stage twinkling away happily.
At 11:50 (according to the broken watch), resplendent in full evening dress, Drunk In Public took to the stage. The time was probably nearer 9:30 and the band promised us two hours of entertainment.
Drunk In Public (picture courtesy of tinternetradio.com)
Opening with “The Ballad of Robbie Jones”, they took us through a set of old Levellers favourites including “15 Years”, “Confess” and “What A Beautiful Day” with a smattering of Rev Hammer’s own material (“Caledonia Rain”, “Ole Welsh Soul” and “Wedding Ground”). I love Rev’s own stuff and it’s great to hear it live once in a while (can we have a small solo tour next year please Rev? One day I will hear “Every Step Of The Way” live).
Wedding Ground – Drunk In Public (Quality: not great)
Mark Chadwick was on top form, asking a girl in the front row “What was that? Come back to your place and you’re going to do what to us?”, to much laughter and, after the first song, asking “I know it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll, but has anyone got any Rennies?”
Just before “Julie”, Rev explained that they were going to take a 15 minute break after the next song, as this was the first time that they’d attempted a gig since the smoking ban was introduced and it was proving to be a bit of a struggle.
Strange interlude moment was when some chap appeared from the front and pointed at my shirt and sang “Subvert, Subvert” at me, before muttering “I don’t know any more of the words” and wandering off towards the bar.
15 minutes later (at 11:50 by the broken watch) and Drunk In Public are back on stage for a much faster second half. A mosh pit has broken out and people are bouncing about happily as the band blast us through “Carry Me”, Rev’s “Burford Stomp”, “Riverflow” and an incredibly sped up version of Rev’s “Down by the River ‘O’”. The band were joined onstage by Dan Donnelly at one point (I think it was for “Carry Me”) and he stayed for a couple of songs, taking some of Simon’s musical responsibilities and allowing Simon to field a couple of text messages, the rest of the band jokingly telling him to concentrate. Mark then asked if Simon could have a pint of Carling passed down from the bar as Simon had managed to spill his.
Somewhere amongst the second half we were also treated to “Dirty Davey” and “One Way”, before the band left the stage and were reintroduced to the audience for a second encore of “Another Man’s Cause” (I think) followed by “Just The One”, before ending the evening with the fantastic “Ragtime Annie”. Glorious.
Leaving the venue I looked at the broken watch and it still read 11:50, but on getting back to the car, the time was 11:50. Spooky. You’re probably expecting the watch to start going again now. It didn’t.
Special thanks to Roy and Debbie at tinternetradio.com for getting Drunk In Public to Tamworth.
Rolling around the Lincoln ring road following my Google map/direction finder, I thought I was never going to reach the venue, but eventually after heading in what seemed to be completely the wrong direction for 20 minutes I followed the final instruction – After 94 feet, stop – and I arrived in The Engine Shed’s car park.
After a brief exchange of “Hello, how ya doin’s” with Mark Chadwick (who was presumably being shown back to where he should’ve been by an Engine Shed employee) in the car park, which at least proved I wasn’t late, I was ushered into the venue.
The Engine Shed is not what I was expecting at all. An apparently newly built-for-purpose, rather than an old, engine shed, it looked like a sort of mini-NEC arena and was superb – With the sad exception of the security people, who seemed to think they were working at the NEC.
Catching the last couple of numbers from the support act while queuing for a beer didn’t do much for me but I should have paid more attention as just as I was beginning to get into their last song, it was over. I didn’t even catch what they were called.
While waiting for the Levellers to appear I spent the next fifteen minutes with my feet slowly gluing themselves to the dance floor. I’ve known sticky dance floors before, Rock City circa 1988 is a prime example, but this took the biscuit. You could barely lift your feet in some places for fear of losing your shoes.
The Levellers unexpectedly appeared high above the stage and descended a staircase like Gods descending to earth. We were taken straight into “100 Years Of Solitude” and the venue exploded. The mosh pit rocked, the “No Crowd Surfing” signs were ignored and a rather younger audience than is currently the norm at a Levellers gig went for it big style.
One of the benefits of seeing a band more than once on the same tour is that you can be pretty certain of which song is coming up next. When “Forgotten Ground” started I thought they’d reworked the setlist, but it had just been moved slightly.
The thing about this evening was that every track sounded even more powerful and full of energy than is usually the case. Whether it was to do with the newness of the venue and the sound system I don’t know, but whatever happened it inspired the Levellers to even greater heights than usual.
Boaksey was in attendance again tonight and treated us to his usual manic stage antics during “One Way”, Mark introducing him as “My Girlfriend” and planting a sloppy kiss on his lips.
“Forgotten Ground” got the prize for unexpectedly fast track of the night as the band went through the speedy parts even faster than they usually do. What a changed beast this song is to when it was welcomed back to the setlist a couple of years ago as “Forgotten The Words”. Marvellous stuff.
Banter with the audience was at a minimum tonight as the band were slick and tight, powering their way confidently through the set, the audience baying for more during the breaks.
“Come On” blew me away and rocked the venue into “Burford Stomp” and “Carry Me”.
As the band returned for an encore, they slowed it down for “Another Man’s Cause” and then sped it up again to an even faster pace for “The Riverflow” and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, Jon’s bow seeming to almost set fire to the strings of his fiddle.
After another short break we were treated to an even faster than normal “What You Know” and then, to my dismay, that was it.
It seemed like Lincoln hadn’t had an evening like this for sometime and the place had certainly been blown away by the show tonight, the last night of the UK tour and the last UK indoor show the Levellers will play this year.
Two questions remain;
Why was Jon hitting Simon over the head with his fiddle bow and;
Which festival dates have I got tickets for again?
Setlist (approximate running order); 100 Years Of Solitude / Fifteen Years / Last Man Alive / Hope Street / What A Beautiful Day / The Boatman / One Way / When Love Runs Out Of Time (Simon Solo) / Men-An-Tol / The Road / Forgotten Ground / Come On / Burford Stomp / Carry me / The Game / Liberty Song / Break / Another Man’s Cause / The Riverflow / Devil Went Down To Georgia / Break / What You Know
Rev Hammer’s concept for his Freeborn John DVD/CD has been around for a long time.
The original studio CD was finished in 1996 and this DVD package’s literature thanks “Mark Chadwick for an idea in a country garden, July 1994”. However, there are recordings in existence of Rev performing some of the songs on here (“ England’s New Chains” and “ Elizabeth’s Great Gallop”) as early as 1992.
This gives some indication of the amount of love, endeavour and effort that has gone into this project, covering the best part of 15 years. And it shows.
Freeborn John tells the story of John Lilburne, the leader of The Levellers (no not them) in 17th century England , and “the first English Radical”.
This DVD is a recording of the performance that Rev and his fellow musicians performed at the Beautiful Days festival, Escot House, Devon in August 2005. You also get a CD of the live recording as well.
The DVD (and CD) consists of 13 or so tracks, the majority written by Rev with one written by Justin Sullivan of New Model Army which is, I believe, exclusive to this release.
The story starts where it should, at the beginning, and takes you through Lilburne’s life, telling of his run-ins with Prince Rupert, The King and eventually Oliver Cromwell.
The story is told in a sort of Folk-Rock-Opera style with passion and intrigue as each of the performers taking the stage puts in enthusiasm and effort. And what performers there are, including but not restricted to; Rev himself taking the part of John Lilburne, Maddy Prior playing Elizabeth – John’s wife, Justin Sullivan (of New Model Army), Rory McLeod who somehow manages to pull off a great performance as the folk singer (something he has been doing for much of his life) and The English Civil War Society who put in brave performances during the fighting scenes.
I’ve listened to the original CD numerous times and the live CD accompanying this DVD a number of times, but nothing prepares you for the full impact of the DVD presentation. However, you have to pay attention – let yourself get distracted and the impact is lost.
But if you sit there and immerse yourself in the experience of the story, the storytelling and the songs, then you will be moved. Some of the literature in the DVD booklet is included on the DVD to help with the narrative and this works well, filling in the story between the main areas covered by the songs.
This is a DVD that is a required purchase for anyone who was at the Beautiful Days festival in 2005, an historic recording of an historic performance, which could quite easily move the viewer to tears at times (especially during “Seventeen Years of Sorrow” and “Lilburne’s Death Song”) and a document for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of England without the need to resort to a history book.
But for Rev Hammer, nothing like this would ever have seen the light of day as I can think of no other performer around today who could have pulled it off.
Rumour has it that Rev is planning to tour the show next spring (2008). If this rumour turns out to be true, then I wish him luck and can promise here and now that I will be there.