Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2018, the Brighton folk-punk band performed a special acoustic set at the famous Roundhouse venue in Chalk Farm, London.
With the anniversary creating something of a groundswell of popularity with the band, it seems they can do little wrong these days. Anniversary performances of ‘Levelling the Land’ a firm fan favourite have done Levellers no harm whatsoever and dragged fans old and new out to see the band up and down the country. No venue has been too big, none too small for the Brighton act and following the well received ‘Static On The Airwaves’ and a fabulous best of compilation album celebrating their career, the band have decided to do something slightly different.
Forthcoming album ‘We The Collective’, recorded at Abbey Road Studios with legendary producer John Leckie is released soon and will feature reworked versions of some of the band’s classic tracks and a couple of new ones. Check out new single Drug Bust McGee below;
The acoustic performances are backed by additional strings and it’s this format that the band brought to the Roundhouse for a very special show as part of the venue’s ‘In The Round’ season.
Before the begin a 90 minute headline set, support comes in the form of;
Now fair play to the band built around multi-instrumentalist DM Farley. A participant in the Roundhouse’s 2017 Rising Sounds project that helps 18-25 year old artists get some experience in the industry, he offers the crowd an electric performance that is perfectly suited to a crowd expecting an acoustic show. Layered with soul and feeling, the songs incorporate a piece of Lou Reed and a hint of Leonard Cohen. Broadly a rock sound but ultimately suitable for any taste in music.
The Rising Sounds project enabled DM Farley to get time with an accredited producer and it’s clearly a good choice as the music on offer filled the amphitheatre of the Roundhouse with ease and, with only 30 minutes on offer, he and the band received an enthusiastic response. You might think that someone with less than 50 likes on what appears to be a freshly created Facebook profile would be nervous about opening for a band as big as Levellers but if there was a trace of concern, it didn’t show. A consummate performance that DM and the band should be proud of.
As the stage filled with various members of the band that I have seen perform live countless times, a quick recount confirmed that the band had pretty much doubled in size. In addition to Jon Sevink’s electric violin, three more musicians appear behind him, one on double bass and 2 more on violin as well. This alone adds a previously unheard depth to the tracks performed as the rest of the band shape them through the use of acoustic guitars, mandolin, digeridoo, drums, keyboards and bass.
‘We The Collective’ could not be a more apt title for the interpretations of the classic tracks as collectively they manage to present something that is totally familiar yet delivers a completely fresh take. With the band celebrating 30 years together, some of the songs they are almost ‘required’ to play live must eventually drag them down slightly. Whilst every fan will always want ‘Liberty’ or ‘One Way’ in a setlist, a band will always desire to play ‘other’ songs or tracks off the latest releases. To resolve the dilemma, what better way to appeal to both halves than by reworking those old numbers.
Opening with ‘Exodus’ and ‘England My Home’, the band then dropped into one of the new songs from ‘We The Collective’, ‘Drug Bust McGee’. Fitting perfectly into this re-imagined version of Levellers and standing happily alongside ‘Liberty’ it shows a band who have as much to say now as they did when they first started out.
When ‘Liberty’ is performed though, it become apparent just what the band can do with a song. The original full of energy and bite was transformed into an almost haunting anthem that caused the room to stop, take stock and almost hold its breath for the duration. There were comments from both Simon Friend and Mark Chadwick about the crowd and how quiet they were, jokingly stating it was down to playing on a Sunday night. I would argue it was almost down to respect and recognition that these songs deserved to be heard without interruption. The silence from the crowd at times was probably a surprise for the band who are embarking on a national tour with this material, having experienced a little more raucousness in the past but it was absolutely right. These songs deserve every note to be heard clearly by everyone in the room. The cheers did follow and by the time the band closed the main set with a mesmerising ‘Hope Street’ and the obligatory ‘One Way’ a full sing along was in progress.
A cheer from a suitably enthused crowd greeted the band upon their return and finishing an acoustic / reworked show with ‘Just The One’ seemed like an inspired choice. Cheers all and thanks for a great night. Those going to see some of the shows on this tour are in for a treat.
England My Home
Drug Bust McGee
Edge of the World
61 Minutes of Pleading
Alone in This Darkness
Cardboard Box City
Subvert (Zounds cover)
Just the One