The Levellers @ Shepherds Bush Empire, London UK

Live Reviews | Dec 19th, 2005

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Opening Bands: Seth Lakeman
Date: December 16th 2005
Venue: Shepherds Bush Empire, London UK

Well I finally saw my favorite band, the Levellers. I’m so glad I finally got to see them live and the trip was really worth it. My brother Matt, his girlfriend Michelle, and I arrived at the venue at least an hour early, so we went to have a drink next store at O’Neil’s beforehand. After the pub, waited in the cold for a little bit and then it was time for the doors to open. Probably how I got sick the next day? Ya think? Ha!

I bought my Levellers “Last Man Alive” tour shirt and got my spot right in front of the stage. I met some Levellers fan, coming as far as Australia! I have to say that the Levellers’ fans are some of the nicest people I’ve met. They really made a stupid Yank feel welcome. The first supporting act of the show was singer/songwriter Nick Harper. He sort of had a Billy Bragg/Bob Dylan thing going on, which was okay. He’s a really good guitarist and at one point broke a string; he then re-strung his guitar as he was singing. That got the crowd pumped for the next band, Seth Lakeman.

Seth Lakeman was entertaining and played very well. The group reminded me of Great Big Sea a little bit. I thought the percussionist was very interesting and I was watching him the whole time. He sat on this bongo box, play with the fizzy drumsticks thingy, and used his hands on the box as well. He also played the Bodran (I think that’s what it’s called?) Since I never succeeded in drums in school, I figured that would be something I would like to try instead. I think I play a mean “air drum” too! But anyway, they got the crowd into the show more and blended perfectly into the Levellers’ set.

The Levellers started out with an intro of George W Bush spouting his crap like usual, and the band took the stage. I was going crazy because this was the first time I was seeing one of my favorite bands live. The Levellers went into “England My Home” and the place went nuts, myself included. Hearing the Levellers live is a completely different experience than hearing them live on CD or listening to one of their studio albums. Both are great, but nothing beats seeing them live. Hearing Jon’s fiddle work gives me goosebumps. After “England My Home,” they played “Sellout” and “Last Man Alive.” Last Man Alive is their newest single and Mark said nothing would be greater than to have the single be number 1 for Xmas….just to piss everyone off! So get downloading: . I liked how the band played three new songs right after each other. After LMA, they played the happy campfire ditty that I like “For Us All” and then went into the more rockier song “Wheels.” Have I mentioned how much I love the new CD? “Wheels” sounded a little bit different live than from the album but I like it. You can hear the fiddle more. I was hoping they were going to play that song but I was disappointed that they didn’t play “Make You Happy.” I think by this point in the concert, I was smushed along side the photo pit gate with the rest of the die hard Levellers fans. Plus I was beginning to lose my voice from singing every song. I guess it’s the price you pay for having a great time up front.

I normally sit back and relax at concerts but this was an exception. Plus if I wasn’t up front, I wouldn’t have meet a lot of the fellow die hard Levellers’ fans!

“What a Beautiful Day” was played next and then Simon did one of his acoustic songs. Simon was just out there doing his thing while the band went off stage. I thought he would do “When Love Runs Out of Time” since it’s on the new single; but he played “Cardboard Box City” instead. I like that song too so I didn’t mind. The rest of the Levellers came back on stage, and Charlie the drummer was up front with a big snare drum. They played “The Boatman” and it sounded great! I’ll be honest, I’m not really a big fan of the song sometimes but I think i’m gonna give the song a chance now. “Hope Street” was next and I was very surprised to hear them play it for some reason. I love the song but figured they stopped playing it live. After that, Simon whipped out his harmonica and they went into “Carry Me.” Many of these songs I’ve heard live on bootlegs and live albums, but hearing it in person just put a big fucking smile on my face. I don’t think that smile left my face for the entire set. Other songs they played in the later half of the set were “Confess,” “Belarus,” “Dirty Davey,” and one of my all time favorites: “The Game.” I was jumping up and down for this one because I really wanted to hear this live. They ended their awesome set with “The Riverflow” and it got the place dancing, even some members of the band were having fun up there. They went off stage but the fans called them back for an encore. Steve the roadie came out in his weird garb, and was carrying his didgeridoo. He played one note and a chill went down my spine because the sound is just so haunting. Obviously everyone loved the sound of that instrument because the club was cheering like mad. He did his solo and the band came out for “This Garden.” Then they played another classic “One Way,” with Steve playing guitar with his dideridoo. Which was pretty funny to me actually. They finished the first encore with “Devil Went Down To Georgia” and I’ll be honest, I hate the original. I can tolerate the Levellers doing it but I can’t stand the original song. I wish they played something else in it’s place like “Fifteen Years,” or “Haven’t Made It, or “Liberty.” All songs I was dying to hear but maybe next time. The Levellers came back out for one last song and that was “What You Know.” Jon and Seth Lakeman had a fiddle-off during the track, which was really cool! I think during this song, the rafters unleashed ticker tape which caught me off guard. I was then paranoid that the tape was in my Heat Miser hair for the rest of the night. The concert was over and I was sad because it will be a long time again before I see the Levellers again live.

I met up with Dizzy from the Levellers Message Board and she scored me some After Party passes. So after the show I was upstairs in the bar area with fans and the band. It was a bit surreal to be hanging out with a band I admired so much. It felt weird, usually I’m not like that when i’m backstage; but I wanted to talk to the members of the band and tell them I traveled from America just to see them. I talked with Simon a little bit, and then Dizzy introduced Matt, Michelle and I to Jeremy, the bass player. He was one of the nicest guys I met and I talked with him for a little bit. Talked about Gogol Bordello, the tour, recording new stuff. It was getting late and we had to find a way home somehow so we left the party and said our goodbyes. Took a cab to our hotel and then passed out since I was going on 2 hours sleep. That will be one night I won’t forget…


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