I was all excited because I was going to see the Levellers tonight for the first time since a somewhat stoned performance at Glastonbury in 2004. I woke up with their songs going round in my head and it was as if I hadn’t ever been to a gig before! I hope they live up to my expectations!
With that thought in mind I bravely searched for Levellers 2016 on youtube and found a video from the Shrewsbury folk festival so I put my headphones on while I was working and listened to it. At first I was a bit worried as the sound wasn’t good but I figured that as it was a festival they were probably soundchecking as they went along so I perservered and it soon picked up. Next I found some video from a very recent show and had a listen to that. Curiously someone had videoed about 30 seconds of each song and put them all together – quite fustrating but helpful. I was sure they were going to be as good as they were when I first saw them.
However I had to get there first and I had a client who seemed determined to stop me! I was still in the office at 6pm finishing off a presentation that was going out the follwoing morning! When I did eventually manage to get away I drove over to the other side of Newcastle and went to park in a multistorey. I drove up and up and up and eventually managed to find a space that was free and unreserved on the 14th and top floor! I got changed and put my tiedye Levellers t-shirt on despite having some reservations about doing so (was worried it might not look great wearing a t-shirt of the band I was going to see! I have no idea why this was as it’s never stopped me before and it turned out that many people were wearing Levellers t-shirts anyway!)
It was freezing as I wandered from the car park in search of a toilet as the venue didn’t open for another 45 minutes! I was talking to Sarah on the phone so I wandered down to the central station where luckily the barriers in the toilets were open. Relieved I headed back to the chippy I had passed on route and as I was waiting in line the guy in front of me ordered chips with gravy on which sounded good so I did the same. The man behind the counter didn’t seem to mind that I sat and ate them in the shop. When I’d finished I went and joined the queue outside the venue with about ten minutes to wait.
Once I was in I bought a cider and headed down to the front to await the first support band who was a guy called Gaz Brookfield who started off his set with a song about how he’s not allowed to drink cider anymore due to diabetes! An unlikely subject matter I agree but a fantastically funny song. He played for about half and hour before being followed by a band called Ferocious Dog! I admit I wasn’t as impressed by them as the rest of the audience as to me they came accross as almost a Levellers tribute act who didn’t play nay Levellers songs! The lead singer had a mochican and as I found out later had a brother who killed himself while suffering from PTSD and therefore the band now raise funds for that cause. I decided to head off to the loo towards the end of their set and blimey what a task that was. They were upstairs so I had to fight my way right to the back of the venue before I even got a chance to go upstairs and then had to fight my way back tot he front again.
As I was almost back to where I had been a girl stopped me and begged me not to stand in front of her because I was “too tall”. I kind of acquiesced but wasn’t happy about being further from the front than I had been so when I saw a chance I slipped behind her and got back to roughly where I was. After a few minutes a guy behind me started talking to me and taking the piss (in a friendly way) because I was wearing a tweed jacket! We got talking and a conversation I’d been having with myself all day came out into the open regarding how many times I’d seen the Levellers. I’d seen them at Brixton twice, Glastonbury 1992,1994,1997,2004 (the latter being the too stoned to play incident), Crawley leisure centre plus Crawley folk festival as Drunk in Public. As we were talking someone mentioned they’d seen them recently in Hastings and said you couldn’t travel too far to see them. At that point I suddenly yelled – Hey I’ve just remembered I saw them in Amsterdam, not that I remember much about it! They laughed and said that if I’d said I could remember seeing them in Amsterdam they’d have stopped talking to me!
Not long after that the show started with a video on a big screen at the back.
The video showed a lot of incident involving the Governments of the past few years like the MIners strike, Poll Tas riots and of course the Battle of the Beanfield. There was much booing every time Thatcher’s face appeared and indeed when Blair’s ugly mug popped up. I was heartened by a cheer for JC though. Towards the end of the film the band came onstage and as the soundbite from the Film Network “I’m as mad a hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”popped up the burst into the opening notes of One Way – the place went nuts!
The tour was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal album Levelling the land and they had said they were going to play it in it’s entirety but I wasn’t expecting them to play from start to end in order like they did. So the first half of the show was absolutely brilliant with the crowd singing along and jumping up and down a lot. I was right down the front in the mosh pit thinking to myself “I’m 55 next week aren’t I too old for this…no!” I also spent a good deal of the time trying to take pictures without losing my phone out of my hand! Curiously the photos from later in the set came out better!
One of the problems about going to see a band that you haven’t seen for nearly 15 years is that they all look older. Mark who used to have long curly hair has put on weight and had his hair cut short, Jez on the bass hasn’t changed and I’m pretty sure that Jon on fiddle hadn’t either. Simon, who was right in front of me with long hair and a beard I couldn’t actually remember what he looked like last time I saw him so later I googled and it turned out that he used to virtually have a shaven head! And of course the didg player was there.
After they finished the whole album a different curtain was drawn along the back and they played some other tracks – I recognised This Garden and Men-an-Tol but not the last three songs. They encored with Julie and it’s a Beautiful Day and then came back for a second encore of What you know. At some point I stopped feeling old when a couple who looked to be 10 to fifteen years older than me suddenly appeared beside me in the mosh pit. I had seen them earlier standing up by the bar but now they were down the front bouncing around with the rest of us. She then proceeded to take her top off and dance around in her bra. I say bra but it was almost just a strap to stop them hitting the floor. Still without a shirt she was later spotted sitting atop her partners shoulders. Unfortunately he couldn’t really hold her up so the people either side of him were steadying him!
As the lights came on I took stock and basically I was soaked! I noted that the people who said I wouldn’t survive with my jacket on were no nowhere to be seen! I peeled off the jacket and let myself get some cool air around me before making my way to the exit and heading back to my car. My ears were ringing – not that doesn’t happen very often. I tweeted that I’d forgotten how much I loved the band – and I do, I really , really do!
Levellers Set List
Far From Home
Another Man’s Cause<
Battle of the Beanfield
The Cholera Well
What You Know