I’m writing this resigned to the fact that The Levellers have their dyed-in-the-wool, knee-jerk detractors (see inevitable comments below). However, judging by the look of the crowd there were many there in Wolverhampton who, like myself, quite enjoyed their albums when we were younger and ten years on have found they can still remember all the words. Incidentally the number of crusty-style dreads in the crowd was exactly equal to the number of conservative older ladies with silk neckerchiefs – two. Figure that into your stereotype. If the Levellers get up your nose then you’d be well advised to avoid 3 Daft Monkeys. I was too busy circling Wolverhampton repeatedly looking for a car park to see them but they were described by a friend who was there as “everything I hate about music”.
Next up were Alabama 3 in a stripped back, unplugged configuration: just a guitarist, a harmonica player and two singers. Unfortunately their set didn’t quite spark and the crowd didn’t take to them. It was a shame because when I last saw the band they were fantastic, acting up their faux-Southern Babtist shtick with glorious wit.
‘U Don’t Danse 2 Tekno Anymore’ just about pulled things together near the end with Larry Love telling all the 18 year olds in the audience that they probably owe their existence to their folks taking ecstasy at raves. ‘Hello…I’m Johnny Cash’ saw Larry wandering into the audience to sample some impressions of the man. All in all, it was a just barely creditable performance.
If the crowd were growing impatient with Alabama 3, The Levellers didn’t make them wait long. Fifteen minutes later the lights dipped briefly with silhouettes visible in the blue-lit fog. A spotlight picked out the fiddler perched on the speaker stack left of stage before the lights came up and the rest of the band crashed into ‘England My Home’.
The setlist was drawn predominently from Levelling The Land, their most successful album and the one that has leant it’s name to this 20th anniversary tour, so the opener is followed by ‘Battle Of The Beanfield’, ‘Sell Out’ and ‘The Road’. A raucous, singalong blast of ‘Beautiful Day’ was accompanied by the illumination of LED screens on which footage of riots and slogans were projected for the rest of the evening.
After a while though, things got a little wearying. ‘The Boatman’ is twee, fiddle-dee-dee and rubbish and the presence of the wacky, capering digeridoo player during an otherwise anthemic ‘One Way’ grated a little. The sloganeering too, was tiresome but, unfortunately, an intrinsic part of what the band are about.
After a lively, brisk ‘The Riverflow’ (with amusingly posh ‘hurrah!’s from the audience) the band left the stage, returning for an encore of ‘Dogtrain’ and ‘Just The One’. Exiting again to tumultuous applause.
For what was meant to be a celebration that seemed like too sombre a note to end things on so the band’s return was expected. An increasingly quick ‘What You Know’, with two of the 3 Daft Monkeys returning to the stage provided the evening’s finale.
So yes, The Levellers put on a good live show and know how to treat the fans that have stayed fanatically loyal to them over the years. Personally I’m happy to dip back into them once in a while and enjoyed the evening. This show will last me a couple of years I’m sure.
This review was published on Culturedeluxe.