(Can’t find any video from the night, but this is from earlier in the same tour)
Why this gig?
I loved the Levellers back in the early 90s. I saw them several times back then but haven’t seen them play since about 1996. I thought it was probably about time to catch up with them again. And, of course, any excuse to go to a show at the Union Chapel.
I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve actually paid to see the Levellers. Previously I’ve always seen them at festivals.
There’s no support act. But we get a screening of the new documentary about the Levellers – A Curious Life. It’s an interesting film. I recommend seeing it. And after that there’s a brief Q&A with the director and Levellers bass player Jeremy Cunningham – who, in the film, is our guide through the band’s history.
With the new documentary and a career-spanning greatest hits album out, the band are in a reflective mood and this is reflected in the show in a couple of ways. Firstly, the gig is acoustic. And secondly the band take a rather different approach to the set-list – they omit all of their best-known songs.
They start with a couple of the less well-known songs from Levelling the Land. But after that it’s almost an hour before I recognise another song. Ok, so it’s almost twenty years since I listened to a new Levellers album and it’s not their fault that I don’t keep up with their newer work. And I’m obviously not representative of the audience as pretty much everyone else here is loving everything they hear.
That’s not to say at all that the songs they do play aren’t good songs or played really well. The band are obviously on top form and these more obscure songs will probably reward futher investigation. I was just disappointed not to hear “Fifteen Years”, “Beautiful Day” or “Julie” (the last of which would have suited the acoustic setting perfectly). At one point Stephen Boakes appears in the Union Chapel pulpit with his didgeridoo and I’m hopeful of hearing “The Garden”. But it turns into “Elation”, a song I had forgotten from Mouth to Mouth.
After about an hour the set finishes with a couple more songs that I know – “Dirty Davey” and “Burford Stomp”. The latter may be the most obscure album of the night, but I just happen to know it as I know and love the Rev Hammer album that it comes from.
The encore is the obvious place for a couple of big hits. But no. Instead we get “Carry Me” and another track from their first album.
I did enjoy the night. And I’m thinking that I should get along to one of their more traditional shows at some point soon. But the set-list seemed very strange to me.
Set set-list is on SetList.fm.