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07 December 2005: Levellers - Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

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I haven’t seen the Levellers for almost 5 months and I must say that the withdrawal symptoms have been setting in quite badly recently and I’d been looking forward to this gig for weeks, if not months.

Twenty five years ago today (and tomorrow) I was in bed with flu (well, what were you doing when John Lennon was shot) and having almost recovered from this years variant the motivation was lacking to get there early. Consequently, I missed the great Seth Lakeman (BBC Radio 2 folk awards 2006, folk singer of the year nominee), but if you’ve only got the energy to stand up for two hours then I suppose you have to make sacrifices.

The venue was packed. I haven’t seen Rock City this full for a Levellers gig for years. Normally it’s fairly full, but there’s space to move about. This was absolutely jammed.

Then we were off, with an Intro that I couldn’t hear, but which definitely involved Mr G Bush Jr. I think I must have picked a bad place to stand because I could hardly hear anything the band said all night, but I had a decent view so I wasn’t going to move. The band arrived on stage, with Simon sporting a Stetson with a feather sticking out of the back, all looking relaxed as usual.

"England My Home" was first up and a storming rendition it was too. I couldn’t see Jeremy, but he was bouncing like a good one as the mass of dreads that kept flailing out from behind the speaker stack testified. This was followed by "Sell Out", another one that gets the crowd and Jeremy bouncing around.

The new single "Last Man Alive" was next. This deserves loads of airplay, which would make it the hit it deserves to be and if everyone who’s been to see them this tour buys it, it will be. But, I doubt it will get any national media support though (go on, prove me wrong…).

"The Road" prompted some spontaneous crowd surfing, which was immediately clamped down on by the security at the front of the stage. Why? It didn’t say "No Crowd Surfing" on the tickets (like it does on the Cradle Of Filth tickets), so surely it’s ok? This just strikes me as coming from the same "no fun" mentality that also tells us not to smoke, encourages us all to buy this or that alcoholic beverage (as long as we drink it responsibly) and makes us wait at pedestrian lights for all eternity, while the person crossing has been home, had a good nights sleep and crossed back again. Let the kids crowd surf!

Simon sang "For Us All" next, instrument less, and backed by the rest of the band. I found it quite disturbing to see him without a guitar strung round him. And then we were straight into "Wheels" and "What A Beautiful Day".

Somewhere within these songs (I think it was "What A Beautiful Day"), Mark got hit in the face, mid verse, by what looked to me to be a pair of pants. This didn’t put him off a bit, though he did look slightly shocked when whatever it was actually hit him. It could have been a bra though (there was one hung on Mark’s mic stand for the rest of the night) as Jeremy, having received one bra and been ribbed by the rest of the band ("That’s the first one he’s ever had"), appeared to be inundated by underwear from that point on.

Simon was left alone with his guitar for "Cardboard Box City". It’s ages since I heard this and I loved it. (Can we have "Social Insecurity" next tour please?). It was mildly spoilt (and Simon looked a bit narked as well) by the inane chattering of the masses. You’re at a gig, chaps, to listen to the band. If you want to talk about your latest knitting patterns save it for the journey home.

"Exodus" was next, but I think I was still singing "Cardboard Box City", because I can’t remember it.

Then the place exploded as we were launched into "Carry Me". Audience participation to maximum. I can’t wait to hear the CD you could buy after the gig for this one alone.

"Confess" from the Levellers latest album "Truth and Lies" was next. For me this is one of the best tracks on the album and it sounds even better live.

Mark struggled with his guitar during one of these numbers and had to abandon it completely onto the stage at one point but Simon managed to cover for him, with the Levellers normal professionalism.

During the next number, a rare outing for the excellent "Belaruse", Mark nearly missed singing some lyrics by over-enthusiastically swinging his guitar about and almost knocking his mic stand over.

Then we were into the final numbers before the band left the stage. "The Game", much appreciated by the audience, "Dirty Davey" (getting faster) and then "The Riverflow" (light speed). Exit stage right for light refreshments, with the crowd baying for more. Did the whole of Rock City shake as we stamped for more? I think it might have.

An absolutely brilliant main set, but I did miss "Burford Stomp".

The band reappeared and launched into "Another Man’s Cause", as relevant today as it ever was. Then it was time for the venue to shake again as "One Way" took the crowd’s vocal participation to new levels.

"The Devil Went Down To Georgia" was next. Fantastic, indescribable brilliance to end the night, with Jon easily beating the devil as Simon took the devils part on the guitar. Spectacular!

Off they went again, waving as they went. Only to return minutes later, with Seth Lakeman on second fiddle, for "What You Know". Awe inspiring stuff. Faster and faster the fiddles went, Jon and Seth trying to out-fiddle each other, and the band played faster and faster and faster and then…

…the end.

John Shaw, one time Radio Trent DJ, once said after a gig by the Levellers that all the musicians watching the band were stood open mouthed with amazement as the band played "What You Know". They’d have done the same thing tonight if they’d seen the show.

Best live act 2005; Coldplay. I don’t think so. Not by a long way! Get a grip…

Set list; Intro / England My Home / Sell Out / Last Man Alive / The Road / For Us All / Wheels / What A Beautiful Day / Cardboard Box City / Exodus / Carry Me / Confess / Belaruse / The Game / Dirty Davey / The Riverflow / Another Man’s Cause / One Way / The Devil Went Down To Georgia / What You Know


The views expressed in these reviews do not necessarily reflect those of the team.

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