Levellers
Liverpool O2 Academy
Sunday 18th November 2012

The Levellers arrive in Liverpool riding a critical wave; their most recent album ‘Static On The Airwaves’ has been lauded by fans and the press alike as being a career best, so it was no surprise to see the 1200 capacity Academy rammed – a real rag tag cross section, from dreadlocked battle weary festival veterans, punks, and ravers to those now saddled with mortgages, children and in these difficult times; crippling debt.

What ties them all together is the very real and tangible feeling of camaraderie that supporting the Levellers evokes, every member in the audience is aware of the bands long history, how they have forged their own path, constantly operating outside the confines of the mainstream music industry – so as the house lights dim, the backdrop logo is lit and the intro track, the self titled ‘Static On The Airways’ seeps from the speakers, the Levellers saunter into the expanse of the Academy stage greeted by a roar that seems to emanate from the rear of the room and roll forward tsunami like engulfing front man Mark Chadwick as his greeting is all but drowned out…’Beautiful Day’ their biggest hit, certainly their best known song follows and again demonstrates the Levellers indifference to following the expected norms; the crowd respond joyously – a coming together, a joining of voices as Mark stands stage centre flanked by Jeremy, Simon, and Jonathan, Jeremy and Jonathan pin-balling across the stage, when they pause long enough Jonathan twists like a Catherine wheel; the rear of his shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Subvert’ and Jeremy; his bass slung low, waist length dreads flailing like nine-tails.

The set is a flawless mix of old and new, pulling ‘One Way’ from their classic ‘Levelling The Land’ to ‘Burn, America, Burn’, to ‘Mutiny’ from the ‘Static’ album’ a track that is both chronologically new but is also perfectly familiar – the Levellers are a force to be reckoned with; they have over their 22yr history amassed a near perfect catalogue that is best delivered in the live arena, for a band often lumped with the ‘folk-rock’ tag they sure know how to bounce, at times this was like watching those other festival stalwarts Dreadzone, Jeremy’s looping bass, Jonathon and Matt Savage adding just the right amounts of colour as Mark delivers his point – the politics of the band have remained constant throughout and perhaps now as the we teeter on the edge of war in the Middle East, and the Western nations finances flat-line they are even more relevant; Chadwick’s voice seems to have grown in strength, in the past the relentless touring has taken its toll but at this point in time he has rarely sounded more forceful.

Whilst its agreed the Levellers are not interested in the fripperies of rock and roll stardom, they still understand the need to put on a show, and tonight is no exception; they tour with their own lighting crew who wash the stage in blue and red hues, spotlighting either Chadwick or Simon Friend as they vocally joust with each other, before being joined by a luminously face painted Steve Boakes, his outfit topped with a cut down version of Noddy Holders infamous mirrored hat, Boakes wielding a didgeridoo like Celtic broadsword, the sounds created seem to rise up from time itself before the band explode into ‘The Boatman’ – the floor is literally flexing as the entire crowd bounce to the rhythms – this was spine tingling, band and audience joined in the common cause, celebrating the music and understanding the meaning of the lyrics.

They encore twice, the second time joined on stage by a selection of locals for a raucous rendition of ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’ – as the set concludes there are 1200 and 8 ridiculous grinning, gurning faces. Go and see the Levellers, in these darkest of times you need to be aware, but there isn’t anything to stop you being aware whilst dancing to a rabble rousing beat.

The ‘Static On The Airwaves’ tour continues:

Wed 21 Nottingham Rock City
Thu 22 Leeds O2 Academy
Fri 23 Birmingham O2 Academy
Sat 24 London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Sun 25 Southampton Guildhall

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.

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