Levellers - Manchester Academy 1 - 2.12.06

Walking into the Academy tonight it doesn't feel like we're in 2006 at all. All the trappings of the modern age are stripped away for something much more free spirited with the only signifier it isn't the early 1990s being the over inflated beer prices. Looking around at tonight's audience its clear that although most of them have probably settled down and living the 2.4 children and a mortgage existence, like the Levellers themselves no doubt, tonight is about that nostalgia that this correspondent bizarrely equates with seeing the band on the Chart Show with "One Way" and rushing straight into Our Price that very morning to by their "Levelling The Land" album. The following weeks were spend hurriedly trying to collect each of the albums previous and as this was not part of the download age and CDs were still a modern thing for those select people who had enough money it was £5.99 cassette's all the way.

Although for many here it is about the nostalgia, a band like the Levellers are as relevant today as they ever were. Their songs of the travelling and the free road would be quashed by the New Labour government nowadays as the tide of immigration spiel comes from back-benchers and as young adults are continually told they need to get on the property ladder before spiralling into debt the way the levellers live is a much more simple life. Musically it's all about the communion with strangers embracing each other around the venue and as the old saying goes "a strange is simply a friend you haven't met yet".

The soundtrack is exactly as its always been with new songs and old drawing from that same punk rock and folk template. "Riverflow", "One Way", "Boatman" and "Riverflow" are drawn from that classic album while "What A Beautiful Day" and "Make You Happy" are testament to the new material. Whereas previous tours you've had the inclination that it could be the Levellers last due to a general lack of disinterest, tonight it's anything but with a new found energy that must come from the fact that in these overly careerist times the Levellers have simply done exactly as they pleased for the past 20 years and are going from strength to strength.

The bands appearance in Manchester each Christmas has been one of this correspondents undisputed highlights - bring on next year

Alex McCann

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