The Levellers @ Shepherds Bush Empire, London UK

Live Reviews | Dec 21st, 2006

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Opening Bands: Benji, 3 Daft Monkeys
Date: December 10th 2006
Venue: Shepherds Bush Empire, London UK

Like last year, I pretty much went to the UK to see some concerts, including one of my favorite bands, the Levellers from Brighton, England. This was only the second time I was seeing the band and was thrilled to see them again. This time I was fortunate to get a photo pass and try to get some decent photos of the band (which I think did).

My brother, his fiance, and I headed over to Shepherds Bush Empire. Saw the same beggars and bootleggers from the night before (and avoided them again), and decided to stand online before the line got bigger. It was lightly raining out that night so had to stand there and get wet. I waited in line with my brother and his fiance til I had to go in the other line for the photo pass. I was talking with a nice Levellers fan from Sweden. The guy looked like a cross between a pirate and someone in a Mad Max movie. I wanted to take a picture of him but was scared he might take out a big sword and cut me in half. But more power to him for dressing that way, I wouldn’t have the balls to dress that way haha. He told me about seeing old Pogues show when riots where going on, and told me that he pretty much raises money (begs) to travel places and see shows.

Anyway, I got my photo pass, went inside the club and waited for the opening act by the photo pit area. It was an acoustic guitar played named Benji. I think his father was someone well known in another folk or Celtic band but not positive. His music was pretty good, and he performed really well. After Benji, was the 3-piece folk band 3 Daft Monkeys. The band consisted of a bass guitarist, a female violin player, and then a singer/guitarist who had a drum by his foot. They REALLY got the crowd into it and even got this reviewer dancing as well. They have an eclectic sound, and mix a lot of different genres together. They have some songs that might be considered gypsy, punk, ska, reggae, and folk. Definitely check them out if you get the chance, they are an interesting band to see!

I chatted with another photographer while the crew set up the stage for the Levellers. It’s nice to talk to other photographers in the pit who aren’t stuck up; it kills a lot of time. The intro music didn’t end up working for the band so they all slowly walked out onto the stage. They all had a slight disappointed look on their faces. Mark Chadwick, singer of the Levellers, told us to imagine a big epic intro and to go crazy. Which the crowd did, and obviously they didn’t need an intro but would have been nice to hear what they would have played. I immediately starting snapping away as the band opened with “100 Years of Solitude.” I was glad they opened with that song because I didn’t hear them play it last year. The band played a few songs I haven’t heard live yet, which was nice. Granted I only saw them twice now but glad there was some different songs played. The band asked their Myspace “friends” which songs they wanted to hear on the UK tour. But it didn’t seem like they switched up their songs all that much. Give or take a few songs. But since I haven’t seen them in over year, I didn’t really care if they ended up playing most of the same songs again.

They went into “15 years” after the opening song and this song is one of my favorites! They didn’t play that song last year and I was surprised they didn’t since it seems like a popular tune. After the band played “Last Man Alive,” the photographers had to leave the photo pit and go in the back to either leave the club or deposit their cameras. Most of the professional photographers leave because they are too good to see the rest of the concert. Others, like me, stay and have to leave their camera with security; which is the dumbest thing ever! I deposited my camera and hurried back to catch the last half of the song “The Road.” Towards the first half of the set, the band showcased a new song called “Inevitable.” It sounded great, but I honestly forgot how it goes. Well I guess I’ll find out once the new album comes out. I was hoping they would play a new song and they did! After that, they played the popular “What a Beautiful Day,” which got all the kids in the crowd jumping up and down. I’m getting old because 1) I’m calling people “kids” and 2) I had to stop jumping after awhile because I was just too damn tired.

Simon usually does a solo acoustic song in the middle of the set, and this show was no different. This time he did an acoustic version of “Sellout” and I thought it sounded excellent. It definitely got the crowd singing along. Throughout the set, it looked like Simon was having problems with his guitar and the band was poking fun at him. At least that’s what it appeared to be from the crowd. Mark was funny with some of his comments, and he also made some comment about the smoking ban that England soon will be facing. “BOLLOCKS” was the phrase he used. While I love the band’s music, I guess I don’t always agree with the band’s politics. I was dreading standing in the smoky clubs over in the UK since we don’t have that over here in NY anymore. There’s nothing like smelling like an ashtray, coming home from a concert. Blech! But anyway, instead of having the Didgeridoo player come out in the encore (like last year), Steve came out to play the last part of “Boatman” and for the song “One Way” as well. I haven’t really been a fan of “Boatman” on CD, but man does it sound great live. The last part of the song, the instrumental part, was quite interesting because Charlie was up front with his drum. Then Mark got on drums in the back as well. Then they went into “One Way” and made the crowd go ape shit.

Besides all those songs, some other notable songs that they played during the set were “Forgotten Ground,” Men-Al-Tol,” “Hope Street,” “The Game” and then they finished with “Liberty.” I was hoping they would play “Liberty,” since that’s one of the very first Levellers songs I heard and got me hooked on the band. The Levs came back and played “Another Man’s Cause,” “Battle of the Beanfield” and finished the encore off with “Riverflow.” The first two songs in the encore, I didn’t hear last year so that was great to hear those live finally. They came back for one last song and Benji & 3 Daft Monkeys joined them on stage for “What You Know.” That was simply amazing to hear all those musicians on stage going crazy. The show ended perfectly!

It would have been nice to hear some songs from Green Blade Rising, and more from Zeitgeist like “Leave this Town” and “Haven’t Made It.” Maybe one day I’ll hear “Haven’t Made It” but it appears they only play it at acoustic shows now. I was kind of surprised to hear only 1 song from Truth & Lies, but it seems a lot of the fans don’t like that album as much. I like it a lot; it’s just a little bit different than their earlier material. Regardless of what they played or didn’t, the group really got the crowd to their feet and got them dancing. The band seemed like they had a blast on stage and it’s nice to see a band enjoy themselves after all these years. Now if only they stop farting around and got their asses over to the States already, I’ll be a happy guy!


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