Date: November 24th 2012
Opening Bands: Citizen Fish, Gaz Brookfield
Band Link: www.levellers.co.uk
The last time I saw the Levellers, it was 6 years ago at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, England. The Levellers were back again in support of their latest, awesome album Static on the Airwaves. They were joined by folk punker Gaz Brookfield and Citizen Fish. Definitely a great night to start off my London vacation, despite the cold & rainy weather!
I had seats up in the lower balcony, so it made things tricky with shooting the show but the staff at O2 Empire were friendly and helped when they could. I had to deposit my camera after each set which was an extreme pain in the ass but I really wanted to take pictures of The Levs so I put up with it.
Gaz Brookfield opened up the show and was a nice surprise. He’s very similar to Frank Turner in style and lyrics in a way. He also has a full band on his albums from what I heard, but this time he was doing a solo set. He slowly got the crowd into it, and clapping and singing along by the end of the night. I haven’t heard of him before this show but I’ll definitely be getting his albums when I can. He’ll be playing with the Levs again in 2013.
I don’t remember the last time I saw Citizen Fish but it’s been a long time. Maybe 10-12 years? The initial lineup is still together for the most part, but they have two horn players (trumpet, trombone). Their set was filled with chaotic, political ska punk songs but not sure the crowd was totally into them or not, at least it felt that way in London. I prefer their older material than their newer stuff just because I don’t really know their new stuff as much. Would have been great to hear stuff from Wider Than A Postcard and Millennia Madness but oh well, they still played a awesome set! From what I can remember, they played some older stuff that I love like “Habit,” and “Feeding.” “Meltdown” is one of their newer(ish) songs that I always liked, and they played that one too. Vocalist Dick was his usual self; intellectually ranting & raving at a super fast pace, to try to get his point across in limited time. I can listen to that guy speak for hours haha.
After Citizen Fish, The Levellers came on around 9:15pm and I was officially stoked to finally see the band I scheduled my vacation around. I was also a bit delirious since I was going on an hour of sleep (if that). The intro to Static on the Airwaves came on and the band slowly took the stage. Simon returned to touring after taking time off with personal matters, and it was great to have him back. He began the set with “We Are The Gunmen” which has become one of my favorite Levellers songs. I was originally skeptical of having that song open up their new album but after hearing it a few times, I can see why they put that first. It just sticks in your brain and I end up singing all the time haha.
After that, they played “What A Beautiful Day” and “The Game,” which always gets the crowd dancing and bouncing about. This is only the 3rd time seeing the band but it never gets old hearing these songs. The Levs mixed in crowd favorites (“The Road,” “Fifteen Years,” “Sell Out”) along with a ton of new songs (“Truth Is,” “Raft of the Medusa,” “Mutiny”). “Truth Is” was the first song I heard from the new album and it sounded amazing live! I wished they played “After The Hurricane” and “Second Life” but not sure they are doing those live yet. I thought “Second Life” would have been a good one to do since it’s fast and has a classic Levellers sound to it. The songs they chose to play were fine though, and catered to the specific skills of the bands. Like during “Our Forgotten Towns,” Jon’s fiddle playing is simply outstanding! During the classic “The Boatman,” Stephen Boakes came out again to rock the didgeridoo and then continue that into “One Way.” That instrument always gives me goosebumps and those 2 songs are always the highlight of the Levellers live shows.
Towards the end of set, the band played “Dirty Davey,” “Riverflow” and then finished it with “Cholera Well.” They came back for the first encore and played one of my favorites “Far From Home” and then “Liberty.” Before this tour happened, the band was asking fans to come try out for the song “Recruiting Sergeant,” and that was the last song of the night. A bunch of people playing fiddles, and other instruments joined the band on stage for a fun session of the song and it was just a lot of fun.
Seeing the Levellers again was amazing and a great start of my vacation! It would have been nice to hear some songs I wanted to hear but just to hear any Levellers songs at this point is a bonus. They haven’t toured America since 2003(?) and not sure a tour is in the future. If it does happen, you bet I’ll be there for a few shows!
Check out some shots from the show below, or see them all at SkaPunkPhotos.com