support from 3 Daft Monkeys,
Manchester Academy 1,
It is evident immediately why the Levellers have chosen the groove crafting, foot drum pushed folk/acoustic trio of musical journeyers, 3 Daft Monkeys to sets things off. The simplicity and craft illuminated by the explorative song building captured throughout highlight 'Social Vertigo', featuring bemused cries, flighty fiddling and a Celtic flavour must have formed the basis of many a Levellers rehearsal session over the years. The crowd knows this too, as they greet the county coated, acoustic stroll of the wistful 'Faces', warmly and appreciate the playfulness that this trio brings out. This builds up captivatingly into the spirited fiddling of Athene Roberts. A friendly set is coasted through and it is apparent that this is certainly a live band. The songs may not stand the test of time from replaying on album, although there is certainly a time and place for 3 Daft Monkeys' spirit.
With their Live DVD 'Chaos Theory' having recently landed in the public domain, there is an inevitable buzz that tonight's Levellers' set is going to be a search into the back-catalogue that may even surprise their connoisseurs. Therefore, '100 Years Of Solitude' is greeted with pit rumbling buoyancy. Gatherers are more than happy
to join them in a return to 1999, a time of sorrowful reflection with a positive spark fighting through. This is captured with the mid-tempo guitar licks and forceful lyrics. Chadwick delivers the latter element with his inherent hint of intoxication and loftiness;
"All around you slow decay, wanna feel the sun of the new day.
Forget the chances that you lost shedding innocence like falling dust."
'Leave This Town' continues the classic feel to the evening. The sprightly multi-instrumental approach polishes the robust and roving guitar licks, creating the energy for Chadwick and keen attendees to bellow out the defiant punk lyrics with grit and soul. The Orwellian nostalgia of '15 Years', retains its potency and is a neat reminder of the spark that has ignited a career of honest, ranging punk and folk based exploration. However, there is a niggling feeling seeping in at this point, as although this set is energetic and the buoyant defiance of old is well and truly rekindled, it is a set they can only pull off once, you feel. With very few recent tunes on display, there is a sense that something fresh is needed for more nights like this to happen, in this venue or even a larger one. It is almost as though the doubts were being shouted out into the face of the band, as up steps the often overlooked Simon Friend to give the vocals an emotive, stern and county lifted soar for 'Sell Out'. Thus, implying that a return to this slightly down-tempo, more vocal highlighting and varied approach in the rehearsal room could lead to a new album to rival the emotion and range of 'Levelling The Land'. Then they may be able to grasp the Gaelic based punk mantle back from the Dropkick Murphys.
Old favourites 'Beautiful Day', 'One Way Of Life' and the explosive old school punk charge of 'Liberty', are delivered and received with customary energy and drive.
There is not even a hint of forcedness that so many bands of this vintage struggle to fight off. 'Another Man's Cause' stands out from all the double encore tracks, for its lyrically fierce and instrumentally channelled protest at war (albeit the Falklands). This number eclipses most of the Bush and Iraq war protest songs that have been fired out like bullets in recent years. The Levellers clearly still has a purpose and through the sweat soaked and satisfied faces, you can see the hope and expectation that this Brighton outfit now goes away and puts the same energy and force into a producing a fresh, new full length offering. The industry sorely needs a return of the musical potency that the Levellers surely still possess?