LIVE REVIEW: Mark Chadwick (The Levellers) - Camden Assembly Hall, London

INTERVIEW: The Levellers' Mark Chadwick - "This is the worst time I've ever known in my life" 2
Credit: Steve Gullick

In March, XS Noize's Lee Campbell caught up with The Levellers frontman to discuss many things, including the success of the Levellers 2020 LP Peace, being requested by Neil Young personally to support him, and Jeremy Levellers' toy dinosaurs.

At the same time, Mark showed great concern at the incumbent British government, saying that "I've never known a government quite as dark, as cynical, as manipulative, as corrupt and evil & as disgusting as this lot" and that he was currently living through the "worst time I've ever known in my life". While the same government is still in office, COVID was still amongst us when Mark addressed the stage. He was in indomitable spirit and excited to play live music again.

From personally writing the setlist on a back of a roadmap to doing his soundcheck, Mark relished the opportunity to woo the intimate London crowd without any backing musicians. Chadwick captivated the crowds' mood when he said it's good to be "Out Out" and promised to play "everyone's favourite songs". This was not a set to promote new solo material or existing solo material (Mark only played one solo non-Levellers track, the well-received "All the Pieces"); there was one purpose to this set: for Mark to play the hits. Everyone was more than happy to oblige him.

The crowds' elation was undeniable as Mark opened with "Maid of a River", track four from The Levellers fourth LP Zeitgeist. The crowd proudly demonstrated that they knew every word by heart. Mark also played "Just the One" from Zeitgeist. Mark and the crowd created an ecstatic buzz on the sections, which required howling's and "aha's". There was equal amusement amongst Mark and the audience as he sang certain lyrics "You get a pill, you take just half, then take the rest of it, for a laugh".

After performing "Just the One", Chadwick then introduced a song "about war and misery", the musically up-tempo "Mutiny", taken from The Levellers 2012 LP, Static on the Airwaves. Mark also played the politically lead song from this LP, "Truth Is", which for many resonated with the current geopolitical situation. At this point, Mark offered a no-holds-barred critique of the government, which got several nods of agreement from the captivated audience.

Despite Peace being well received by fans and justly earning positive reviews, Mark only played one song: "Burning Hate like Fire". Nonetheless, Chadwick chose the best song to play live acoustically because this acoustic rendition offered the greatest reinterpretation without compromising or diluting the profoundness of the lyrics, which include, "Seem alone in the dark thinking anxious thoughts about sympathy and energy all you were taught".  Mark also played the Levellers live staple "Julie" (without the bagpipes), a song which Frank Turner has reinterpreted and is said to be his favourite Levellers tune.

With the Levellers tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of the sophomore LP Levelling the Land beginning next month, fans might have expected Mr Chadwick to perhaps hold off on these songs, which include many live favourites. But holding back would have potentially meant withholding some of "everyone's favourite songs". Chadwick indulged the Camden Assembly with five Levelling the Land tracks, including "The Boatman", "15 years", and the sacrosanct "One Way", the penultimate song of the set.

Before Levelling the Land, was Weapon Called the Word and Mark invited Joe Sherwood (Wilswood Buoys), who was the main support act who have recently toured with and recorded with Frank Turner) to play the harmonica on the lead single from this LP, "Carry Me". Despite not having the defining fiddle deftly provided by The Levellers Jon Sevink, the spirit espoused by both Mark and Joe with the crowd was a truly uplifting experience.

As Chadwick finished playing "One Way", curfew was called. Whether it was Mark's diplomatic skills or the harmonious collective crowd Bodhisattva, Mr C was permitted to play one more track, "What A Beautiful Day". And what a beautiful choice to play out with the song that is probably one of the most well-known and catchy Levellers songs.

Whilst many people are currently living through the worst period of their lives; Mark proved that as a solo artist and as part of the Levellers that he not only has the weapon called the word; he can inspire, inform, provide hope and offer joy though both his live and recorded music.

One might have expected that after a career in music exceeding three decades, Mark might have peaked by now. Mark was on top form and proud and privileged to perform live music again. For the fans looking for music with a profound social commentary, Mark as a solo artist and as part of the Levellers is needed by them now more than ever.

Set List

Maid of a River

The Boatman

Truth Is

All the Pieces

Julie

Burning Hate like Fire

Far From Home

Just the One

Mutiny

Another Man's Cause

15 Years

Carry Me

One Way

What a Beautiful Day

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