The Levellers – Academy, Birmingham – 14th November 2014

she makes warThe first act tonight was She Makes War, aka Laura Kidd.  She’s a solo artist that performs playing guitar and ukulele and singing.  She uses a technique where she sings a short section which is recorded using a foot pedal, and the recording is then played back on a loop, so a 30 second vocal sample becomes a backing track to accompany her singing and playing.  For one song (delete ) she seemed to record more than one layer of loops so when she performed the song it was just her singing with the effect of several other singers backing her.  It worked really well, but it’s the sort of music that defies categorisation. – is it folk, gloomy pop, or something else? Who knows, but the important thing is that it sounded good.

The selecterNext up was 2 Tone legends, The Selecter.  Image-wise they’re about as different  from The Levellers as it’s possible to get as they arrive on stage smartly dressed in suits.  It’s a good job the stage is quite large as there are eight of them including two saxophone players and two singers. – Pauline Black and Arthur Hendrickson.
If you’re not familiar with 2 Tone, think of it as a mix of Ska and punk.  It’s got the punk attitude and energy mixed with the more laid back Jamaican ska sound.  Given that ska and reggae are closely related then it’s not surprising that there’s a reggae feel at times.
The Selecter are a band that have been around a long time – since 1979 in fact, but jive never managed to see them before despite loving some of their songs.  Live, they were even better than I’d hoped.  It’s really catchy music that soon had people around the venue dancing away as the band went through hits including “3 minute hero”, “Missing words” “On my radio” and “Too much pressure”.  One of their songs, “James Bond” mixes the Bond theme with ska and was a great song.
It’s a superb set – but far too short, and frankly if the night had ended after their set I’d still have gone home happy.

The Selecter setlist:
The Avengers
3 minute hero
Time hard (everyday)
They make me mad
London’s burning
Fuck art let’s dance
Train to skaville
James Bond
Missing words
On my radio
Too much pressure/pressure drop

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The levellersNext though was The Levellers, on their greatest hits tour, and they got things off to a flying start with “Beautiful day” and “Fifteen years”,  which get the crowd going wild. From there on they took us through a set that included some of their best known songs from their career so far.
A very colourful didgeridoo player came on for several songs including “Boatman jig”, and it was impressive how well the didgeridoo worked with their songs, even in a live setting.
Pauline Black from The Selecter joined them for one song contributing her vocals, before the two saxophone players came on for the next song.  Later in the set, Laura Kidd (She makes war) came on to do a song with the levellers.
The crowd was clearly there to have a good time (and kept the bar staff very busy in the process), and as with all the gigs I’ve been to by The Levellers, there was a great atmosphere.
The band really know how to entertain a crowd, and while they may include a few slower songs, they make there are plenty of faster songs to ensure the crowd energy levels never dip too low, and as they come towards the end of the set, the pace and energy levels rise to a peak.
After a short break after their set, they were back four for the encore which consisted of “Just the one” followed by a very popular choice – “The devil went down to Georgia”. Again, they headed off stage before returning after a short break to do another encore – “The Riverflow”.  A great end to a great night.

The Levellers are a superb live band that always put on a good show, and they also seem to have a habit of picking great support acts – sometimes they aren’t the obvious choices (I wouldn’t have expected The Selecter to support them), but they’re always acts that are very good, and more importantly they pick acts that fans of the levellers are likely to enjoy. Tonight was a great example of this – we had two support acts that were very different from each other and both were great, and The Selecter left the crowd happy and very definitely warmed up ready for the levellers.  The Levellers then delivered their usual high standard of performance to round off a superb night of music.

Levellers setlist:
Beautiful day
Fifteen years
World freakshow
Far from home
Together all the way
Dog train
Sell out
Boatman jig
This garden
One way
Too real
Hope St.
Truth is
Carry me
Come on
Cholera well
Liberty song

Just the one
The devil went down to Georgia
Encore 2:
The riverflow

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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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