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Even for the uninitiated a cursory glance at The Levellers‘ current tour set-list (and lyrics) suggests a band who embrace a shrewd socio/political agenda with a passion. After all, the clue’s in the name. ‘The Levellers’ campaigned for religious tolerance and broader suffrage during the British Civil War (yes, it all kicked-off in Scotland). And, scanning both published and blog reviews of their current album ‘Static On The Airwaves’ demonstrates not only feral loyalty but an admirable, dispassionate intelligence. That’s some fan-base to have on your side. As was made bruisingly, bone-crunchingly evident at this rammed 02 gig. Perhaps not so much of the intelligence bit tonight though!

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Opening to the haunting, almost funereal keyboard riff of ‘We Are All Gunmen’ all exploded in an ecstasy of light and delirious welcomes that set the template for an evening of Faustian packed, furious anthemic choruses led by vocals, guitar, Simon Friend. Compulsory participation in pogo self-harming and very careful carrying of expensive plastic-pot pints commenced.

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The obligatory chorus air-punching continued with ‘Beautiful Day’ and indeed, to paraphrase – ‘…nothing seemed impossible/ In all our powerful minds.’ Mark Chadwick (vocals, guitar) of course is the undisputed master of ceremonies but was constantly deferring to the avalanche of lunatic asylum escapees alongside him. Whilst the ‘Day-Glo’ fiddler, Jonathan Sevink, and industrial-grade dreadlocked bassist, Jeremy Cunningham, were hell-bent on pleasing the photographers by occupying every part of the stage possible.

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‘Raft of The Medusa’ was a frantic sea-shanty-jig that might’ve posited Capt.Jack’s existential question – ‘Where’s The Rum?’. But, with a very grim twist – look it up – true story. Likewise with ‘Mutiny’ based on a WW1 incident where troops rose up against the brutal treatment by Military Police feared and rightly nicknamed ‘Bulldogs’ – look up Jesse Robert Short/‘The Monocled Mutineer’. DO pay attention, you at the back, there will be questions.

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It may well have been Stephen Boakes, occasional drop-in guest, who featured as a look-alike be-hatted Baron Saturday on didgeridoo after a weekend pharmaceutical bender. Very atmospheric set within Temple of Doom-like atmospheric lighting.

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‘Our Forgotten Towns’ bristled with anger though complimented by the life-affirming, morality ballad, ‘Carry Me’. Hi-octane/giga-Watt pandemonium let lose with ‘Dirty Davey’ as did with the – who can fit the most words in to a song? – ‘Riverflow’. Main-set closer was ‘Cholera Well’ with its splenetic lyrical outrage at ongoing wars and post-colonial conflicts undertaken in our name. The inevitable encores relished with the soothing, reflective Country nuanced, ‘Far From Home’ and the volcanic fanfare for Rights of man and woman, ‘Liberty’. Exhausting fun for all. Now then – Q1, part a.

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Gig Review by John Kennedy
Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

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