Walking up to the majestic Buxton Opera House it was noticeable that the crusty old tour vans of years gone by have been replaced by posh tour coaches but were Levellers still true to their roots? Well tonight we were to find out as this was not only an acoustic gig but also a screening of the film A Curious Life.
A Curious Life, directed by Dunstan Bruce, is a retrospective view of the band as seen through the eyes and memories of bass player Jeremy Cunningham and takes us on a wild and sometimes wacky journey from their roots in Brighton through to the first gig in London at The George Robey and onto their now famous appearance on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury in 1994.
At times (many in fact) the packed opera house burst into laughter at some of the comments and especially the one about Michael Eavis, I won’t add any more spoilers but this is definitely worth getting hold of when it comes out in a few months.
So after the film Jeremy and Dunstan come out for a quick Q&A session which was a bit of light-hearted fun and actually ends up more about Jeremy’s love of fine whisky rather than the music or the band but still an interesting interlude before the music.
Mark Chadwick describes The Levellers as musically an English folk band with the attitude of a punk rock band and certainly over the years that has come through in the mix of typical folky instrument’s and the attitude and actions of the band towards politics and indeed the media who slated and dismissed them, how wrong they were!
When Levelling The Land hit the scene the raw energy of their sound, whether you knew the politics or not, energized the crowds with tracks like ‘One Way’ and ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ so in 1995 when Zeitgeist was released it went to number 1 in the UK charts and gave a big ‘V’ to the dismissive media.
Tonight’s acoustic gig was actually quite surreal and definitely a gig of 2 halves. The totally seated crowd tapped, wriggled and sang away in their seats through the likes of ‘Boatman and The Road’ but about halfway through a breakout happened and then the whole place was up and dancing.
‘Barrel Of A Gun’ and ‘Burford Stomp’ confirmed we were now at a proper Levellers gig. Musically there is no question about the immense talent of these guys for not only writing great music but also in giving awesome solo and band performances, Simon Friend offering up some great guitar work and outstanding fiddle playing from Jonathan Sevink.
So are The Levellers still true to their roots? Well, yes, they started out a bunch of guys playing exciting and powerful music and continue to do so today, whether it be an acoustic or a full gig; you still get the feel of the passion that they put into their music. There is only ‘One Way’ and that’s their own and they stick to their convictions through and through.
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley
Gig review (Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, 13.11.14)
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In this two hour special David Randall plays a selection of the GRTR! reviewer choices for ‘Best of 2019′ and announces the results of the popular poll. First broadcast Sunday 22 December 2019.
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