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Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Levellers - Glasgow Barrowlands (11/3/11)

Opening the show with footage and images that cover the protest movement and key historical moments perfectly sums up the intent of the Levellers.
It also highlights how nothing much changes. The rich still pull the strings and governments still manipulate and abuse the people who vote them in.
Thatcher gets a bit of a boo when her picture is beamed onto the backdrop, but Blair gets a louder one.
The boos for the iron lady were expected. In a concert that is focussed on an album that came out twenty years ago, and addressed issues of the time, it should be keying into a fan base that are well aware of the damage that hideous crone did to our country.
However the louder boos for war criminal Blair showed that most people were still either politically sussed in non partisan politics, or had a politically awakening during his reign of moving the left to the right.
The loudest response was quite rightly reserved for the ideological bastard son of Thatcher, David Cameron.
A man who I suspect is the result of an experiment where they tried to clone a mix of Thatcher and Reagan as they wouldn't consummate their evil union due to him being a dickless wank - an oxymoron that leans heavily on moron - and her being a dried up old cunt.
Nick Clegg was obviously the first failed attempt.
The footage of the Beanfield abuses of power and those more recently where students were assaulted could really only be differentiated by the quality of the filming and the changes in the police headgear.
Like I said, nothing much changes, but in a strange way this is perfect for The Levellers and Levelling the Land.
We have come full circle and the themes explored on that album are just as relevant now, and maybe more so than twenty years ago. This is the timeless sound of protest.
In fact while the Levellers have always been accused of preaching, I have always thought that they simply held up a mirror and commented in an honest every-man style about society as they seen it.
There was no heavy political diatribe promoted. Just comments made that were designed to act as a catalyst for thought.
They never told you what to do. Just said what they thought and due to the time they expressed themselves in it had an impact on many.
I was there in Glastonbury and seen them before I knew who they were. I was there doing reels in King Tuts when they came to Glasgow. I was part of the crowd that witnessed them storm the Pyramid stage and since then I have seen them more times that I could care to mention.
The common thread throughout is that they have never failed to entertain me or speak to me with their social commentary.
Tonight would be no different.
Or maybe it was, because I can't recall the last time that everything fell into place like this and they were so fervently received by an audience.
There's probably a few reasons for this.
One being that the focussing on Levelling the Land has drawn people out who haven't seen the band in a number of years, the other being that the songs within the set are speaking to a whole new generation.
Who could argue that the world reflected then doesn't equally resonate with the world we live in now.
Current affairs have elevated this far beyond what could be described as a nostalgia trip.
This album is speaking to people across the generations because it is immersed in basic morality. Right and wrong.
The Levellers themselves must be aware of this rejuvenated interest as when they appear it's a no holds barred performance.
While the material has been acoustically explored recently this full on electric mix of folk-punk is its natural form.
Beginning with One Way sets the tone. It's an anthem for those who fervently wish for personal freedom and the crowd roar their approval. It speaks to us all.
The Game is frenetically pushed as hard as it can be and the floor is bouncing. You can feel it in the small of your back unless you are bouncing along to it as about three quarters of the sold out crowd appear to be doing. While Fifteen Years cements their reputation as being one of the best live bands that this country have ever produced. A song that highlights how the band can take something like the problems of drink fuelled violence and trace how it can have an effect on all the parties involved with a degree of insightful maturity that is rarely offered.
These songs in quick succession seem to say it all. The manifesto of the band. Here we are stripped bare for you and then when we look closely all we see is ourselves reflected back.
The universal themes that the majority of us know deep down are what we should aspire to.
How war is wrong, how we should exist in a world where our differences are celebrated, a world where freedom of expression and speech is encouraged. This world feels tangible and within reach when the Levellers perform.
The crowd are lost. A sense of us all being in this together is all around. No one is simply a spectator. We all have our parts to play and we do so with gusto. Every song is met with approval, the end with rapturous applause.
When they cover The Devil Went Down to Georgia it is time for the reeling to kick off. The space next to the bar resembles an anarchic ceilidh in progress. The sort that of madness that Tam O'Shanter would have witnessed in the Burns poem.
This is as far removed from the wedding styled dancing that most are used to. Drinks spill, people slip in the puddles and are pulled back to their feet. Others windmill past and snatch an elbow to hook and spin from. Wild fearless abandon abounds and those who are dancing surpass what could be described as simply enjoying a bit of audience participation.
As the refrain of do I belong to some ancient race of Sell Out is sung I'm there. I've always personally felt connected to the song. I look about and see a world that is disjointed. Too much attention paid on shiny and glittery toys while the most important things like family, friends and love are demoted to being something less important. Aspiration is the word on all the politicians lips, but aspire to what? Personal gain, being better than your fellow man? Aspire to having a bigger house? Fuck that. If we aspire to anything it should be about reaching for balance. Creating a world where we all see the worth in each other, where respect and love go hand in hand.
None of that is possibly what is specifically being said in the song, but it's my interpretation of the ancient race. A mythological utopean time that didn't exist, but should have.
The way we exist certainly isn't standing the test of time.
When Another man's cause begins - the heartfelt expression of how young men and women are sacrificed on the alter by little grey men who wander the corridors of power weaving their Machiavellian webs with scant regard to the human cost that others have to live with - it quietens the crowd.
The change in pace isn't something that jars, but instead provides a moments reflection that aids the catching of a breath. It's an eye of the storm moment. Perfect timing.
Once finished the dancing and singing resume and songs flow past until The Battle of the Beanfield fills the Barrowland. It's a rallying call. A song that punches you in the chest. A wake up call to how apathy allows abuse to proliferate. A reminder that we are on the cusp of other breaches of our rights in the here and now.
On the 26th of this month (March 2011) trade unions, charities, political and protest groups and individuals are going to descend on London to air their collective grievances against this coalition government and I fervently hope that this is not going to be this generations beanfield.
A sound system should be hired and transported into the midst of the protesters with this song, and other Levellers tracks, being played out to remind everyone how far those in power will go to remain holding onto their exalted positions.
I get a lump in my throat every time I hear it.
The injustice described in the song is something that needs to be promoted. In fact without this song how many people would remember the abusive acts carried out in the Beanfield against defenceless and harmless men, women and children by those we normally entrust our safety to?
The encores of the night, Hope Street, Beautiful Day etc act as the perfect accompaniment to the Levelling the Land album.
As the lights go up I know that my voice will be gone in the morning and my body will ache from dancing, but it was worth it.
The thought provoking social commentary that they are famous for continues to be an undiluted force to be reckoned with.
An outstanding night.
If every gig was as good as this no one would be sitting at home on a Friday night. Everyone would instead be in pubs, clubs and venues all over the country partaking of the magic.


  1. a could'nt of said it better myself. it was the best gig i've been to in years was still buzzing when a woke up yesterday morning. a could of went and seen it all again last night. Gary

  2. I don't even think I've come close to capturing how good the gig was to be honest.

  3. Levellers are rich tory boys. They don't care about anybody else. They've run out of new song ideas so they will do this tour for the money. Then they can buy some new wallpaper for their big houses and some petrol for their cars.
    Saying they care is stupid, they sacked all their staff and have turned their recording studio into luxury penthouse flats (Open your eyes)
    The Levellers = The Wankers

  4. Like everyone else The Levellers are victims to changing circumstances. When they had the cash they invested in many good causes. Funding many counter culture projects.
    When money got tighter they had to downsize or face personal ruin.
    Some would argue that altruistically they should have continued until the well of cash ran dry, but I wouldn't.
    What's the benefit to that.
    They still promote free thinking as I have mentioned. They don't tell people what to do, but simply provide some food for thought.
    That's still a very positive stance in my opinion.
    The traitors to the cause diatribe ran dry many moons ago anyway.
    We heard it all when the Clash signed to a major and it rears its head time and again with other bands and always will.
    What it comes down to is that the band people loved moved on and travelled a different path and it irks.
    The Levellers still do more to raise awareness on many social issues, and a hell of a lot more than anyone handing out leaflets in a shopping centre on a saturday afternoon.
    As for the "They've ran out of songs", The last studio album was the strongest they have released in year. A real return to form.

  5. @anon...

    if they sacked all their staff how d'you reckon they would actually y'know, function? Do you reckon the bass player drives the bus, the singer runs the fanclub and the fiddle player runs the label ha ha.

    oh and those luxury flats you were talkin mean these ones?? oh, no, sorry, its still their HQ and recording

    No-one cares if you hate a band...but at least get 1 fact right when slaggin them.

  6. Thanks for that info. I wasn't sure what the score was with the metway.
    These things get thrown up all the time.
    The Levellers never set themselves up as revolutionary leaders and have to live by a self imposed rule of conduct. That others consider that they should isn't really relevant.
    For some it wouldn't matter how much the Levellers were active in the counter culture as it would never be enough.