Thursday, 26 January 2012

Levelling the Land One More Time

So, I have actually made it to a third entry. I’d originally planned to write up this review (review is perhaps not the exact word to describe the rambling) of 2011 gigs as one entry but due to my incessant rambling it is only fair on your poor eyes and time constraints that I break it up somewhat. My own time constraints aside....Oh yes that's right.... Valerie (the banjo playing badger) has just reminded me that with my time machine I shouldn't have any kind of time constraints at all. Thank you Valerie. I can always trust him to stick his snout in. I don't recall asking for his opinion on the matter. I can hear the banjo now, which can mean only one thing - he has some song of wisdom to sing at me. Speaking of wisdom I’ve got to have one of my wisdom teeth out in a few weeks. What, may I ask, is the point in us still having these teeth when the majority of adults have to have them removed due to the issues they cause?

Valerie will disagree but I smell conspiracy at work here. All of these wisdom teeth being extracted. All that wisdom gathering together and plotting the downfall of humanity or some such....What's that?......I suppose you're right there. Valerie just said that humanity needs no help from inanimate teeth.....Nice tune.....I do so enjoy the sound of a banjo, a banjo being played by a badger even more so. It is, as you can imagine somewhat unique.

Where was I? Oh yes, wisdom teeth. They're gathering on mass somewhere out in the wilderness until their numbers are great enough for them to connect together forming as to like a huge figure tall and terrible. Imagine it!! A twenty foot tall monster made out of all the wisdom teeth removed over the last hundred years or so. Several (or more) of such wisdom teeth monsters all chattering towards you. They would have some pretty nasty looking teeth wouldn't they? And don’t even get me started on the five mile radius bubble of halitosis wafting out in all directions. Right, enough!! After that vivid dream where I was being chased by zombies last night without the aid of cheese or any zombie related media I don't think it’s wise to conjure up the image of an army of wisdom teeth monsters this close to bedtime.

The BBC missed out on that one during their brainstorming sessions for old 60's Doctor Who. Think of the money they'd have saved on the props/costumes they ended up using for their alien designs. All they would have required would have been some glue to stick all the teeth together. *Note to time I'm in the early 60's stop by the BBC Doctor Who writing/production team and offer my services*

Anywho, let's get back to sanity (in theory) and crack on with the review before that apocalypse kicks off.

2.) Next up was one of my ultimate favourites The Levellers on their tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album Levelling the Land. This was the first Levellers album I was introduced to (as it is for many lifelong fans I expect) in 1997 so it was a real treat to see the band perform it in its entirety for the first time. 

I make an effort to see this band at least once each year (four times in 2010, twice in 2011 and now if I can get my time machine working I plan to nip back to 1992 & 1994 for those early Glastonbury appearances of theirs where the Boatman became the Spaceman) so I think I've seen them play each song from the album over the years. Their legions of loyal fans all come together at each gig like one mass blob of drool that's formed from many lesser blobs. All end up jumping up and down as if we're in an 80's pogo stick competition in some playground in Hackney (It's true (or maybe it isn’t). This moshing is in rhythm to the joyous guitar, banjo, fiddle and vocal sounds, ingredients which combine to make one tasty meal for our ears.

Standing at the bar waiting for a pint of beer I hear a loud drumbeat thud above the din of chatter cutting through the thick heavy fog of anticipation and excitement. The beat thuds again gathering momentum as it picks up the haunting sound of the harmonica. Sirens and horns! It sounds like sirens and horns all from one blow which then latches on to the violin's lament. The fidgety crowd are off immediately. That first drumbeat is enough to engage them. The chatter ceases as they take their places amidst the collective of the blob. All are now one with the band on stage. Needless to say the beer is forgotten as I rush to merge with the collective. Resistance is futile. One will be and is assimilated. I merge and become one with the moshing blob just in time for the vocals to kick in.

This is an iconic album with a clear message that still resonates loudly twenty years on (perhaps even more so in this post post modern era with added double dip recession*). Many will argue the album made and defined the band. I wouldn't agree completely as their first offering A Weapon Called the Word had many similar themed songs. It is true Levelling the Land fermented the overall sound of the band and the phenomenal success of it propelled them into the stratosphere of the music world. That said, they've always been shunned by the popular music media, something that never phases them and for which we as fans are more grateful than not. It has meant we keep our bunch of Levellers as they always were - owing their successes to their hard work, their loyal fans and the more savoury kind of people in the music business.

There really is only One Way of Life and all our friends in all their jobs, it's all a bloody waste. The words conjure visions of the rat race the majority of us find ourselves in just to survive. Mind numbing jobs just to pay the bills and feed our faces. The Game of life continues to play out while the girl from Fifteen Years ago has packed and gone away. I stand here looking across mountains and the valleys deep where I would take my weary feet and if I really could choose the life I pleased then there's little doubt I’d be a Boatman. Now, if only I could afford that barge. Alas, I like most others am not a freeman as there's one too many, two too many holes are getting bigger in the garden wall. If I'm not careful they're going to get to me, to take my Liberty meaning I'm likely to end up so Far From Home with no means of return. 

Whenever I listen to the Levellers, whichever album it might be and wherever I happen to be at the time I do feel like I belong to some ancient race. Yes I like to walk in ancient places (most recently the ruins of Rome and Pompeii) cause these are things that I can understand. The song Sell Out should be used to introduce every party political broadcast during elections or broadcast alongside them as an alternative. 'Your policies have failed the test of time, cause you sold them down the river - o.' So very true.

Another Man's Cause brings a lump to my throat each time I hear it. The message is clear and not aimed at the service personnel but at those in power who make these terrible, seemingly endless and (in most cases) pointless (not including their thirst for oil and/or dominance) wars.

This is a band that has been with me through everything in my adult life. A band whose music I can always rely on to entice the smile back to my face when I'm feeling down so by the end of even one song I'll be itching to jump about like a loon. They continue to provide me with inspiration helping to nurture my creative side, something I am eternally grateful for.

As with ALL of their gigs I've attended over the years this was more like an evening in the company of friends. A sweaty beer filled evening, admittedly but one of complete enjoyment. At the end of each gig I always find myself saying, ‘Bring on the next…’ I’ve seen them in a number of places around the country yet never in my original hometown of Birmingham.

Who knows where I’ll see them next (probably at least at their own Beautiful Days festival) but with a new album due soon I’m looking forward to it.

*at the time of writing it has only been forecast the UK may be heading into that dreaded double dip recession so if it doesn't actually happen this asterisk thing means you can't sue me for incorrect information and all that bollocks. A double dip recession sounds a bit like a new rollercoaster to me (and not metaphorically so).

To follow: Tom Mcrae with String Quartet.

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