This gig was originally scheduled for the 18th of March .Nine days after release of the new album “We the Collective” . On the 24th Feb , Charlie Heathers’ teenage son was tragically killed in a accident in Brighton. The rest of the tour was rescheduled so at this point I would like to pay my respects to Charlie and his courage for carrying on with the tour.
You can’t really write shit about the Levellers ,because they’ll send it back to you in a shoebox beautifully wrapped. So I go forward carefully.
“We the Collective” is a studio album that was recorded in the Abbey Road Studios in London. It was produced by John Leckie who in turn produced Magazine, XTC ,Stone Roses, Radiohead and Muse . This was to be an acoustic album to celebrate 30 years of their music. I had seen a promotional video back in December about the forthcoming album and with Leckies involvement ,was curious ,to say the least.
The foyer of the Philly was filled with the eclectic mix of old and young ,crusties punks, guardian readers and new age hippies. Such is the reach of the Levellers 30yr history.
We filed in, they filed out on to stage with a back drop of impressive lighting, made their introductions , and kicked off with “Exodus”. A minute in and I knew I was in for a musical treat ,the playing was tight and pure. Mark Cunningham’s voice had not left him. Next was England My Home , this had lost its electric venom, but was replaced by a rearranged acoustic master class. I couldn’t quite make out if the string section was made up of She Makes War and Hannah Miller.
When the applause ended Mark said “I love coming to Liverpool ,because you can’t buy the S*n and Boris Johnson can’t come here”. No song there but it got a big cheer and a round of applause anyway.
Next was Mark Cunninghams song Drug Bust McGee which has a haunting melody and is song about his own life with undercover policemen hounding him. This is well worth a listen to, if you haven’t heard it already.
And so the show rolled on, with this acoustic showpiece , the strings were impressive and brought fruit to the tree .
I could go on about the quality of every song they played that night but it would make this a very long read . The penultimate track on the main setlist was “Hope Street” aptly named , because that’s where they were playing.
It got to the final track in the official set “One Way”,one of my favorites, again this was well rearranged and tightly played. It was also someone elses favourite in the first half of the performance because he kept on shouting “One Way” between songs. I think he was reported by a guardian reader for being a fan of “One Way” and the Levellers .And was never heard of again in the second half of the show.
Shame. The band was built on anarchy and chaos . So the fun police should have had the night off.
So to the final song of the encore “Just the One ” my favourite for many reasons and the only time of the night you heard the words ” beautiful day “. Blew my mind and will blow yours if you listen to them live. If you get a chance to see them this summer ,,,,,,Go.
I managed to srounge the set list from the sound engineer avec level settings. Bonus .
The Levellers “We the Collective ” is available here on vinyl and cd :- https://www.levellers.co.uk/shop
Review by Kev Stewart