Anticipation was high for this one. The 4th time of seeing The Levellers and they’d only let me down once, V99 when they inexplicably played a mid-afternoon slot to a crowd steel reeling from Mel C (‘I am an antichrist, I am a Sporty Spice’) and their set was cut short on the instructions of headliners Manic Street Preachers. Far outweighing this was a Brid Spa gig in ’95 that is still talked about amongst my fellow gig goers that night and a storming headline slot at this year’s Galtres Festival.
With support from two tone legends The Selecter this promised to be an epic night.
First up was She Makes War (Laura Kidd), all guitar and loop pedal. I have a friend who calls using a loop pedal ‘cheating’. It’s a ludicrous statement. The voice is an instrument. She Makes War uses every tool at her disposal and is simply magnificent. Delete should be on everyone’s play list. Despite the early start there’s still a sizable crowd in the O2 lapping it up.
The Selecter stroll on stage oozing the cool that epitomised two tone. I was too young for punk. The first ‘movement’ that really grabbed me was the ska revival of the late 70s but for some reason The Selecter passed me by. It was a definite oversight on my part. A high energy set played out like a concept album, Train to Skaville leads into James Bond, Gaps Hendrickson informing us that when you get off the train the killer James Bond is waiting for you.
The Selecter play it like a headline slot (and rightly so). Gaps and the still stunningly gorgeous Pauline Black are relentless. As a band they are as tight as they come. You have to dance. They won’t let your feet remain rooted. Gaps must lose half a stone every night. It’s a stunning set. I could quite happily have left with Too Much Pressure still ringing in my ears. It’s the job of any support band to try and outdo the headline act. I’ve never seen anyone do it better than The Selecter.
(Selecter with a healthy half time lead).
The Levellers would have to be on top form to win this one. They open with Beautiful Day, the crowd drowned in confetti as the first chord hits home and we’re off. Mark Chadwick is in fine form. The perfect balance of nonchalant banter and trust in The Levellers material. ‘It’s a greatest hits tour. You’re gonna hear what you want’. Jon Sevink (violin) and Jeremy Cunningham (bass) are where it happens though. Spinning round the stage like dervishes all night, eminently watchable and enjoyable.
Pauline Black joins them on stage for Together All The Way and actually gets Mark to dance. She Makes War adds a female vocal to This Garden that you feel has always been there. One Way kicks in and The Levellers are really taking the game to The Selecter. The equaliser comes with the perfect one-two of Hope Street followed by Truth Is (simply one of the greatest songs ever penned).
They hammer things home with The Cholera Well and set ender Liberty Song.
(Selecter still edging it on away goals)
Extra time and The Levellers go all out, Just The One setting up a raucous The Devil Went Down To Georgia for the win. ‘Give me those Ozzy devil fingers. Yes it’s ridiculous but you look great’.
Back again to finish the game off with The Riverflow and you wonder how the result could ever have been in doubt.
I’ve never seen Sheffield O2 so manic. It was one gigantic, sweaty mosh pit. The breath-taking Brid Spa gig was 19 years ago. It’s been surpassed. The Levellers are better than ever.
Photos – Mark Loraine – Words : Simon Saynor.
Full Gallery Here : The Levellers