The Levellers - 53 Degrees Preston - 24.4.07

This tour marks twenty years in the career of Brighton based folk rock punksters The Levellers and next month five classic albums from the band are being re-issued, re-mastered and expanded with b-sides to celebrate. It's as a live act that the Levellers are at their best though with two decades of touring under their belt.

Surprisingly for such politically aware, environmentally friendly individuals the Levellers have stuck rigidly to a formula without really progressing, experimenting or pushing the boundaries. The Levellers still look and sound the same as they did back in 1987 with the fans sticking by them through thick and thin. Time hasn't been kind to Mark Chadwicks voice, maybe years of the rock'n'roll lifestyle have taken it's toll on the German born frontman. It's strained, croaky and at times barely audible. As always dreadlocked bass player Jeremy Cunningham and violinist Jon Sevink bound around the stage with passion and flair but still we detect a band stuck in a rut, going through the motions and on continual autopilot.

You can't fault the quality of the material. "15 Years, "Hope Street" and "Beautiful Day" are all impassioned anthems, triumphing the underdog and are songs the crowd young and old have either grown up with or are now familiar from their live gigs. Even the crowd at this point are a tad subdued. The scary man with the painted face comes on with his didgeridoo to jam with the band, but it's predictable and has been done to death on other tours.

It's only when the Levellers perform "One Way" that the crowd erupt into a moshing mass but an acoustic spot from guitarist Simon Friend ruins the momentum and even he fluffs the song song by forgetting some lyrics. "Liberty" marks out the Levellers as undervalued songsmiths and the fans appreciate such devotion.

The Levellers go on to play two encores with the second featuring their support band 3 Daft Monkeys who are skilled and crafted musicians. It's at this point you really see The Levellers having fun, relaxing a little and enjoying themselves. If they'd done this from the very beginning it would have been a much more electrifying gig rather than a pedestrian one

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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