The Levellers – Live Review – Sheffield Leadmill
By Richard Jones, June 2016
The last time I saw The Levellers live was in late 2014 at Sheffield’s O2 Academy. It was a great night, featuring a memorable performance from the Brighton band, but frontman Mark Chadwick wasn’t that impressed with the venue itself. “We’ll be back in Sheffield to see you soon,” he said. “But hopefully not here.”
So The Levellers finally returned to the Steel City last weekend for their first South Yorkshire gig in over 18 months, and the venue seemed to be a bit more to their liking. The city’s legendary Leadmill club, steeped in musical folklore, seems slightly more apt for a band who clearly know their history, taking their name from a 17th-century English Civil War movement.
Indeed, the night was also somewhat of a trip down memory lane for me. The other week there was a discussion on Facebook about which album you would choose to listen to if you could only hear one for the rest of your life. I found it a difficult question to answer, but there are two LPs that would make it into my shortlist without hesitation. The Levellers’ 1990 debut A Weapon Called The Word and its follow-up Levelling The Land a year later formed part of the soundtrack of my teenage years.
Tracks like ‘World Freakshow’, ‘Carry Me’, ‘Liberty Song’, ‘The Riverflow’, and my personal favourite, ‘Another Man’s Cause’, made them a fixture on my cassette player during the early and mid 1990s. Levelling The Land was so good that NME predicted it could propel them to become “the most popular band in Britain”. Okay, that might not have happened, but The Levellers are far from two-album wonders, nevertheless.
They notched up six consecutive gold albums throughout the 1990s and their extensive and varied back catalogue means they rightly considered as one of British rock music’s true stayers. As well as creating some of the most catchy songs of all time, the Brighton band are, in my, and many gig-goers’ opinions, one of the best live acts to come out of the UK.
The six band members all chip in and play their part on punk-rock tracks, folky numbers and melancholic ballads. These send the audience into a frenzy, regardless of age and how many times they have seen them in the past. In this gig, ringmaster Chadwick, along with Jeremy Cunningham, Charlie Heather, Simon Friend, Jonathan Sevink and Matt Savage were just as mesmerising as the first time I saw them live in Minsthorpe High School’s assembly hall back in 1992.
“Passion and Skill”
Along with all the old classics, slightly more recent tracks such as ‘Truth Is’, ‘Burn America Burn’ and ‘The Cholera Well’ gave this primarily nostalgic concert a fresh feel. Despite Chadwick turning 50 this month and the band plying their trade for the best part of 30 years, this gig confirmed that no act can match The Levellers live.
Their passion, skill and ability to get their legions of loyal fans jumping around to old favourites ‘Just The One’, ‘What A Beautiful Day’, ‘Fifteen Years’ and showstopping singalong favourite ‘Carry Me’, never fails to amaze me.
Before the gig at The Leadmill, we went for a drink in the nearby Rutland Arms on Brown Street. The band were in there, wetting their whistles before their performance and laughing and joking with their adoring fans. It shows that even after all these years they are still a people’s band, first and foremost.
Hopefully they’ll be back in Yorkshire sooner rather than later. Especially now that Chadwick and co have found a pre-bar and venue more to their liking.
images: Liam Farrelly