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Gig review: The Levellers

Much like the group from which they take their name, the Levellers are emblematic of strongly expressed popular ideas that are at once still resonant today and very much rooted in a long-gone time.

Venue: The ABC, Glasgow

Rating: * * *

Review: David Pollock

Not that the Brighton indie-folk mob who appeared before us here resonate through history in quite the same way as the 17th-century political movement, but to hear them is to step back two decades to an era of free parties, the Criminal Justice Act, poll tax riots and the last years of a Conservative government.

Looking longer in the tooth but no less lively than ever, the sextet (a seven-piece with the occasional addition of neon-clad didgeridoo player Stephen Boakes) played with a rowdy bar room passion that was best expressed when Jonathan Sevink’s fiddle playing was involved. Often their music sounded just too smooth and polished, as if they were trying to play songs that were designed to pierce the charts rather than just landing there by sheer force of individualism – in this context, the uninspiring, keyboard-led pop of Before the End and Mutiny were no equal for the pleasantly likeable Glastonbury campsite standards Beautiful Day and One Way.

Yet the band sounded least time-locked and most inspiring when completely divorced from their one-time status as a populist indie rock group. With singer Mark Chadwick’s voice as carved from English elm as ever, the finest moments of this show included purist shanty The Boatman, the affecting Our Forgotten Towns, an effective blend of racing fiddle over one sonorous, sustained keyboard note, and the dogmatic folk thrash of The Cholera Well, each song imprinted with an honest passion that seems largely out of fashion at this moment.

 

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