Review + Photography by John McEvoy

It was over 30 years since I last saw Level 42, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the passing time hasn’t diminished their powers what so ever. Mark King and Mike Lindup on keyboards are the 2 remaining members of the original line up which saw brother Phil and Boon Gould leave the band in the late 80’s, although Boon would continue to write new material for the band. Originally formed in in the late 70’s, Level 42 really hit the mark during the mid 80’s which saw the release of the albums ‘World Machine’ and ‘Running in the Family’. Their distinctive jazz funk sound was underpinned by the Mark Kings trademark slap bass technique which often took on the role typical given over to a lead guitarist.

Level 42 band landscape

Now in 2018, the current line up saw Level 42 on their extensive ‘Eternity’ tour currently doing the business up and down the country and concluding on the 25th October at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Tonight saw them at the Barbican in York which was a first time for me. I have to confess it was a little strange to see seats in what would normally be the standing area. Not sure why a dance outfit like this would have seats but there you go. Support was provided by The Blow Monkeys who for me delivered one of the finest tunes of the 80’s ‘Digging your scene’. Of course they covered their old stuff, but it was also good to hear their current music. Their last album ‘The Wild River’ is well worth checking out, and it was good to see that Dr Robert is still in fine voice.

Blow Monkeys Landscape

Just after 9:00pm Level 42 were warmly received by the large crowd and went straight into ‘Running in the Family’, which naturally featured a thunderous slap bass line from Mark King who is regarded by many as still one of the finest bass players around. At this point my initial worries about how good a band could still be 30 years later were dispelled as the backing back including Mike Lindup on keyboard, a 3 man horn section and possibly one of the biggest drum sets ups I’ve seen then went straight into instrumental ‘Heathrow’ from their 1981 album ‘Level 42’ which is a fine jazz funk tune workout. Mark King is an engaging front man and quickly built up a rapport with the audience which as far as I’m concerned is no mean feat when it’s an all seated arena.

Level 42 King 3 landscape

Mike Lindup is still a keyboard genius and he can still deliver the falsetto voice when required, and the horn section which is something Level 42 use as an integral part of this show were on top form throughout. Pete Ray Biggin worked tirelessly behind his massive drum kit and Mark Kings younger brother Nathan King, was on guitar and vocal duties, and Mark Kings vocals were as strong as ever. Together this band delivered a powerhouse performance and the tunes in the 90 minute set for sounded as fresh as the very first time I heard them many years ago.

The slow ballad ‘Leaving me Now’ was an opportunity for everyone to get their breath back and slow things down a little, and then it was straight back on the throttle with the drum based ‘The Chant Has begun’ and the set was brought to a close with all guns blazing with ‘Heaven in My Hands’.

Level 42 Lindup Landscape

The encore featured a killer version of ‘Lessons in Love’ and the evening was brought to close with ‘Hot Water which Pete Tong described as one of the finest pieces of Brit Funk he’s ever heard.

Time has been good to this band, and whilst this rose tinted 80’s nostalgia thing which is so popular at the moment isn’t really this reviewer’s thing, there are always exceptions to any rule, and Level 42 are my exception. it was a great night, driven along by a band that are as tight as any I’ve seen, and of course it’s underpinned by ‘Thunder Thumbs’ slapping the hell out of his bass and driving the whole thing forward.

level 42 King landscape

At the time of writing there are still 8 dates left on the tour, get yourself a ticket and go and dance like no one’s watching!

Level 42 playlist:
Running in the Family
Heathrow
The Sun Goes Down
The Machine Stops
Starchild
Good Man In A Storm
A Floating Life
Leaving me Now
The Chinese Way
The Chant has Begun
Something About You
Heaven in My Hands
Encore:
Lessons in Love
Rocket
Hot Water

level 42 1Level 42

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