Everyone in the shy of five thousand capacity Brixton Academy was frozen solid. Many were still wearing coats, hats, scarves and gloves. Following a politically charged historical film short, The Levellers then addressed the stage and began to play the opening track “One Way” to their classic sophomore LP Levelling the Land.
The energy and heat generated reached crescendo after crescendo. As this song drew to a close, the Brixton crowd began to lose their hats, scarves, gloves and coats to reveal Levelling the Land hoodies and t-shirts, an album that turned thirty this year and would be entirely played out in the original track listing order.
With “One Way” being a staple and one of their most well-known tracks along with “What a Beautiful Day”, one might have expected the adrenaline-fuelled buoyancy of energy to wane. It didn’t; it grew even stronger as The Levellers played “The Game” and “Fifteen Years”. The movement slowed down in tempo for “The Boatman”; this was more than compensated for with more loud singing from the audience.
The hope and emotion as the Academy sang the following words “I wish I could choose the life I please, but I am not a free man others choose my destiny but my will is never broken” in unison was a beacon to help forget the ongoing uncertain geopolitical turmoil.
When “Liberty” followed, the faster RPM tempo movement returned, but the vocal reciting of the lyrics “This means nothing to me the way we were is the way that I wanna be” didn’t wane by a single decibel.
The energy generated from the Levelling the Land live in its original track order allowed the band to demonstrate that whilst some of the eleven tracks were initially released separately as singles, each song on this LP is part of an interconnected organism. There was a chilling sense that Levelling the Land songs were more relevant today than they were three decades ago when Mark Chadwick changed the opening line to “Sell Out”, singing “The year was 2021; it seems that freedom is dead and gone.”
As a band who are constantly on the road, being unable to tour and cancelling their 2020 Beautiful Days festival was genuine torture for them (as well as their fans) which resulted in their most recent top ten album Peace not being toured. Fortunately, the band did play three tracks from this LP, opener “Food Roof Family”, successor “Generation Fear”, along with the prog-rock finale “Our Future”.
Whilst no songs from The Levellers self-titled third LP surfaced; an eclectic cross-section of songs from their debut Weapon Called the Word LP, number one Zeitgeist LP, 1997 Mouth to Mouth LP, along with newer classics from their 2008 and 2012 Letters from the Underground and Static On The Airwaves LP’s demonstrated that their best and most relatable material is not confined to the 1990s. Jubilations were felt when The Levellers played “What a Beautiful Day” as their penultimate track, who pleasantly surprised their fans with a cover of a song they released initially as a B-side “, The Devil Went Down To Georgia”.
Whilst didgeridoo player Stephen Boakes and guitarist and vocalist Simon Friend were missed, the Levellers continued to demonstrate that they continue to be an innovative and exciting top-class live band at the Brixton Academy. Furthermore, this performance showed that Levelling the Land and many of their other LP’s are not just classics; they continue to be relevant to future generations.