The Levellers + Citizen Fish @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Friday 23 November 2012

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Review and photos by Rich Ward

Friday night at the O2 Academy means an early show start, and arriving at 7 O’Clock I find that I’ve already missed the first act, and I’m just in time for second band of the night, Citizen Fish. Apart from their political nature, they seem an odd support for the Levellers. The Bath stalwarts played an energetic set of Ska Punk, which seemed to go down well with some of the audience. Clearly the support was a draw for some of the crowd tonight. Musically, however, they did nothing for me, and the addition of brass and accordion just added to the cacophony on stage.

The Levellers take to the stage opening with new song ‘We Are All Gunmen’. Despite its excellence, it doesn’t quite hit the mark in giving the impact that an opening song should. That comes immediately afterwards with ‘What A Beautiful Day’ – a track known to all gets the dancing and sing-alongs that you’d expect. From here on in, it’s a tour de force of classics and new songs from the recently released Static On The Airwaves album. Fiddler Jon Sevink and dreadlocked bassist Jez Cunningham fervently bounce around the stage while Simon Friend and Mark Chadwick share vocals and guitar. ‘Fifteen Years’ is a magnificent track and an early highlight of the set, but new song ‘Raft of Medusa’ equally impresses.

The Levellers have always been the archetypal festival band and tonight’s show has that laidback festival vibe to it (overbearing smells of patchouli, weed and cider, dependent upon where you’re standing, none more so than when Stephen Boakes takes the stage alone to play didgeridoo. The crowd love it, and he comes back on to join in on the anthemic ‘One Way Of Life’.

Once again Sevink’s fiddle casts its spell during set closer ‘Cholera Well’ and the uninhibited dancing reaches a frenzied peak. In most cases after the encore of ‘Far From Home’ and a rousing ‘Liberty’ that would be it. However, the Levellers have a further surprise up their sleeves. A second encore sees the band being joined by local musicians for a rendition of ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’, something that they are doing on all dates of the tour. Not only making each show different, but also making it feel a little more special: a wonderful way to end an excellent show and reaffirming the fact that the Levellers are still very much a band of the people.

And you can see more shots from the show here: