The Levellers are one of those bands who’ve often kept themselves incredibly busy. Aside from the time spent off the road during the pandemic restrictions, they’ve toured constantly. When not on the road, the members can be found writing or in the studio recording. The band’s production wheel keeps turning in a way that suggests there’s a real love of what they do. Never was this more true than in 2018. Celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band, they released ‘We The Collective’, an album reworking old favourites acoustically, embarked on a twenty two date acoustic tour, played five festival dates, another two big shows arranged around their own “A Beautiful Day Out”, and almost thirty full electric shows. In between those, vocalist/guitarist Mark Chadwick found time to play seven solo gigs. In terms of work ethic, that’s a schedule probably only rivalled by Frank Turner, a man who seemingly never sleeps.
When the Levellers visited Margate on the ‘We The Collective’ tour in 2018, it coincided with one of the hottest days of the year. Dreamland’s Hall By The Sea was like an oven, but it didn’t stop the Saturday night crowd and the band giving their all. By comparison, their welcome return to the seaside town on a winter Wednesday couldn’t feel more different. Aside from the icy cold, inside and out, there’s not much in the way of obvious revelry. That’s understandable; most people are automatically more restrained on a “school night”, but its more than that. The global pandemic has given the slow return to gigs an uneasy atmosphere anyway, but this night has also been prefaced by Boris Johnson announcing another tightening up of restrictions, meaning that an already cagey mood is heightened by a nagging feeling that this big gathering might be the last for a while. Rather than using the night out cut loose in a carefree way, a lot of the assembled crowd seem rather tentative. It sort of makes sense. The world does feel like a powder keg. On the plus side, the unwelcome news – delivered in the Prime Minister’s usual bumbling fashion – has prompted someone on Twitter to liken him to a “sentient bag of custard”. The fact is, the world has changed since summer 2018. It might never be the same again. Nevertheless, Mark Chadwick, Jeremy Cunningham and company are here…and not before time.
This gig was supposed to take place in March 2020, so for many people it’s been a long wait. The delay has brought a couple of massive changes too. The planned ‘Peace’ tour – which would have showcased the then new album along with old favourites – has been replaced by the ‘Levelling The Land 30th Anniversary Tour’ and, due to unforeseen circumstances, guitarist/vocalist Simon Friend isn’t present. It could be argued that a full performance of the band’s career defining album will offer a superior set, but there’s no getting around the fact that Simon’s presence will be missed by many.
Over the past year, the Levellers have reissued most of their albums as lavish coloured vinyl editions. There’s now some fantastic news for those people who’ve thought about investing in a set but have never taken the plunge…
Since the second re-opening of the Dreamland complex in Margate in 2017, the theme park has gone from strength to strength. While the big draw for many visitors has been the selection of nostalgic fairground rides, others have applauded the decision to use the Hall By The Sea as a legitimate venue for live gigs. Dreamland has played host to shows by Gorillaz (a sell out in minutes), Bat For Lashes, psych band Snapped Ankles (with some memorable visuals), Super Furry Animals and more besides. In February 2018, a double headliner between ska legends The Selecter and The Beat (featuring Ranking Roger) resulted in a classic night at the seaside. The Hall By The Sea has provided a brilliant and cool alternative to the frankly past-it Winter Gardens – a venue that still thinks that The Stylistics, the racism of Jim Davidson and a carpet from 1983 is what people really want.
Tonight, Brighton’s favourite sons, Levellers are the visiting dignitaries. They’d previously visited Margate in 2001 and 2004 for shows at the aforementioned Winter Gardens, but this is their first visit since the slow rejuvenation of the town slowly began not long after. The Hall By The Sea is, naturally, a far better fit for them – the spacious area is perfect for dancing, bouncing – and sweating – and the sound quality is amazing. The crowd are naturally well up for a good night and especially so considering this show has already been postponed. …But what will they play tonight? Since the setlists from Utrecht on June 15th and Boston on June 18th differed greatly, seemingly, the gloves are off…
Following the release of 1997’s ‘Mouth To Mouth’ – arguably the Levellers’ most commercial album to date – the band found themselves at a career high. That long-player spawned the massive hit single ‘What a Beautiful Day’, which although fell just short of the UK top ten singles chart, became one of their best-known and enduring songs, leading to extensive radio play. As part of the promotion for that single, various TV appearances were also made. The Levellers were arguably at their most visible to the general public. Following a greatest hits package and more touring, Mark, Jeremy and company retreated to concentrate on writing new material. Continue reading