Unfortunately, the perils of the M62 and the dreaded Pennines scuppered my chances of making it to the Academy in time to catch the opener, Maelor Hughes, on the bill tonight. When I did arrive, I was met with a sea of Leveller’s shirts, ranging from the early nineties right through to the present day, and the numbers in the academy were swelling before my very eyes.
Peat & Diesel warmed the crowd up nicely with their brand of Celtic folk rock and patriotic tunes. The trio seemed to be loving themselves from start to finish although it was evident that there was a degree of nerves flowing from the stage tonight, which all seemed to ease as the set progressed. The crowd warmed to the band and verbalised their appreciation with noisy applauds and screams, copious amounts followed each track as it was belted out to the crowd with patriotism and pride a plenty.
As the stage was readied for The Levellers, the Academy was now full to busting, an extensive history of the band could be seen through the shirts on peoples backs, each with a varying degree of black through to grey, very much dependant on the age of the shirt and how many times it has gone through the wash.
The lights went down one last time, and we were carved open to an air raid siren accompanying a short film charting the most poignant and important anarchic events and moments of recent times, including many a political snippet and news footage. Chadwick et al then burst onto the stage to the anthemic ‘One Way’ with each and every member of the jam-packed crowd singing every single word back at the stage. The crowd were in fine voice and almost drowned out the band with the volume and passion they were creating.
Happy birthday ‘Levelling The Land’, and tonight was a true birthday celebration of the iconic album, and the songs still sounded as fresh and relevant as the day they were written. Tonight, we were treated to the album in full and then a second half of newer tracks and fan favourites. The band barely stopped for breath following the quintessential ‘One Way’ before launching into ‘The Game’, ‘Fifteen Years’ and ‘The Boatman’. I could continue to list the set but I’m guessing if you are reading this then I don’t need to dissect the first half of the set as you will be well and truly accustomed to the tracks which complete ‘Levelling The Land’. I will however say that there were several standouts from the first half of the set, putting ‘One Way’ to one side, we were treated to a very emotional and thought provoking ‘Another Man’s Cause’, a feel good ‘Boat Man’ (which had everyone jigging on the spot), a raucous ‘Liberty Song’ and the absolute party inducing feel good ‘Riverflow’
The band were well and truly on form, Jeremy never stood still, pogoing and jumping as if his life depended on it while keeping the monster of his bass under control with ease, Jon Sevink stalked his side of the stage, violin in hand, and mesmerising to watch (and just how he jigs and gets the songs note perfect is beyond me). Simon Friend was conspicuous by his absence tonight, we were however treated to an iconic stand in though, and that is Dan Donnelly of The Wonder Stuff fame. He and Chadwick were demons of the six strings tonight, each poured their absolute heart and soul into the fretboard and energised each other throughout the whole set.
So, as ‘Levelling The Land’ drew to a close with a monumental ‘Battle Of The Beanfield’, the second half of the set emerged to rapturous applauds. ‘Hope street’ was another thought provoker and was well received yet again by the baying crowd below. New tracks from last year’s ‘Peace’ as well as ‘Carry Me’ and ‘Cholera Well’ punctuated the closing third of the set with a thunderous ‘Beautiful Day’ causing the academy to erupt once more. The whole crowd hadn’t been still for one second tonight, front to back, side to side had jumped and danced from start to finish with absolutely no respite. There had also been a constant flow of beer glasses, complete with liquid, launched into the air creating a visual display to accompany the classic and hypnotic feel good anthems resonating from the speaker stacks. Said beer even resembled the Bellagio fountains at times it was so plentiful and frequent.
Tonight was a success of epic proportions, mind you, when have you ever known The Levellers to put on a bad show? The only regret people may have from tonight is that with the rest of the tour being sold out in each and every venue, there is just no chance to catch this event one more time on this touring cycle. Damn it !!