The Levellers - The Mill Preston - 26.2.05

How times have changed. In their prime The Levellers played the much larger 2000 capacity Guild Hall. Now the venues have got increasingly smaller as their fanbase has dwindled somewhat. Thankfully for the Mill it's fully sold out with all manner of clientele. You've got crusties (an old school term for the less dapper enthusiast, prone to travelling) and the indie kids, some of whom have been dragged along by their parents.

On previous visits to a Levellers gig i've been bowled over by their performance. The whole band just excel playing live and the atmosphere is always one of jubilation. Apart from the lead singer gaining a bit of weight the band appear not to have changed one iota. Mixing new tracks with crowd pleasuring anthems the place is a heaving mass of sweaty bodies pushing and squeezing themselves to the front of the stage, overcome with emotion and not afraid to show it. After the first few songs all but the guitarist leave as he sings quite touchingly, the spotlight directly upon him, for a rare moment of calmness and tranquility. When they return they bring an old friend with them, striking and unforgettable looking chap with bright red hair, painted face and outlandish costume. No it's not Rolf harris experiencing a bad acid trip, it's the bands resident didgeridoo player and good heavens above, this guy can really play the cumbersome instrument.

The band really begin to shine during their most celebrated song, the sing along classic "One Way Of Life", "15 Years" is another winner, a typical slice of The Levellers midas touch in writing modern folk songs with a strong undercurrent of electric guitars and fiddle that pleases both the rock crowd and folk purists. "Beautiful Day" is the poppiest song of the night, while "Carry Me" has a sombre edge and a beguiling quality.

Although competent, professional and well received The Levellers frontman Mark Chadwickdoesn't see to be enjoying himself an awful lot. His vocals are fine, but the passions just not there. The only time he talks to the crowd is a random question about Preston's appreciation of recently deceased journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson. Next time how about a little more involvement with the crowd, cos they do after all hang on every word you say.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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