02 Academy, Bournemouth
Levelling the Land was an album released in 1991 that grabbed the hearts of many music fans. It was a record with a quite alternative sound to the popular Grunge music of the time. It had songs that had a political conscience about what was going on at the time. Whatever your political opinion the lyrical content made you think, and highlighted the many pressures going on in our country at the time. The Levellers are still around today; still making great music and touring, entertaining their adoring masses. It is never a bad thing to look back, so tonight the band roll into town as a celebration of an iconic album that is loved by so many.
As always the Levellers have provided some hand-picked supports to entertain us until they arrive on stage. The first of these is West Country troubadour Gaz Brookfield, who is no stranger to Levellers audiences. Although it’s only 7:30pm the audience are in fine voice and willingly sing along with Dan and his fiddle player Ben. Gaz is a true modern Folk storyteller, who through his voice entertains and educates with some delightful songs. These include “The Diabetes Blues” with an amazing chorus “You can’t Drink Cider Any More” and a song about bullying called “Be The Bigger Man”. Gaz and Ben get a fantastic audience reaction and from this warm atmosphere; you can tell it is a Friday night, as this crowd are really up for a great evening.
Next up are Ferocious Dog; a Folk/Punk band featuring the Mohican-haired frontman Ken Bonsall and Les Carter (Fruitbat) formerly of Carter (The Unstoppable Sex Machine). This band are just the perfect act to be supporting the Levellers, their passion and energy just uplifts the audience and within moments the whole dancefloor is a mass of dancing bodies. The intensive driving fiddle of Dan Booth, combined with the beautiful Mandolin sound from “Ellis Waring” just make you want to dance. The band have powerfully honest and thought provoking lyrics which really hit the spot; with Ken wearing his heart on his sleeve with a song about his son Lee’s tragic death, due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They keep the momentum high throughout and thoroughly warm everyone up for the arrival of the Levellers.
Wherever you sit within the UK’s politics, you cannot fail to react to the film that the Levellers played before their arrival. The film gives a political history throughout recent times, it is safe to safe to say the loudest audience boo’s were of course saved for “The Iron Lady” herself.
The band then arrive on stage to a massive welcome from the already hyped up crowd, who danced while being showered with confetti to one of the anthems of the 90’s which stated “There’s Only One way of Life and it’s your own”. The audience are word perfect and as each iconic tune from the album is played; the words are sung back in beautiful unison, with each number meaning something different to each member of the audience. The band; despite yet another long tour seem fresh, and reproduce the tracks with much positive enthusiasm and bags of energy.
After the album run through the band continue with a selection of tracks from other albums; including fantastic upbeat versions of “Cholera Well” and the lovely semi-acoustic version of “Julie”, where frontman Mark Chadwick impresses with his vocals. The band leave the stage but soon return for the encore’s which includes yet more confetti and the return of Dan and Ellis of Ferocious Dog for a dual fiddle version of “What You Know”. This evening has been a massive 25th Anniversary celebration; from a much-loved band who tonight thrilled a sold out crowd, and are more than welcome to return to Bournemouth any time they wish.
The Boatman / Boatman Jig
Far From Home
Another Man’s Cause
Battle of the Beanfield
The Cholera Well
What You Know (with Dan Booth & Ellis Waring of Ferocious Dog)
Videos, and Words by Dave Chinery (Chinners)
Pictures by Jon Musselwhite.