When the Levellers took their first acoustic album, We The Collective, of reinterpreted old and new songs on tour in 2018, the London leg took them to Camden Roundhouse in North London. Five years later, the Levellers brought more reinterpretations with new songs from their second acoustic LP, Together All The Way, live to the Hackney Empire in East London.
After their impressive Roundhouse show, the Brighton-based band knew there was an appetite for more acoustic live performances and reinterpretations. Whilst Hello Pig material was ditched at Hackney Empire along with other live staples, including “One Way”, “What a Beautiful Day”, “Dirty Davey”, and “Carry Me”, the six-piece demonstrated that they were more than their nineties material. The cheers and merriment from lesser-known songs such as “Wheels” from their 2005 Truth and Lies LP and the bands’ latest single “Down by the River’ O'” were a testament to this.
The band opened with “The Game”, the first track on Together All The Way. Whilst slower than the Levelling the Land original, the haunting nervous and collective energy of the nine-piece live ensemble captivated the audience. The other re-recorded songs with new arrangements that followed included “Liberty”, “Battle of the Beanfield”, “England My Home”, and “Cholera Well”. The adroitness of these songs was that whilst they were soothing and sanguine cacophonies compared to the originals, the urgency, relevance and adrenaline drawn from the crowd equalled that of their predecessors.
The live songs the band played which didn’t feature on either We The Collective or Together All The Way were acoustic, or at least semi-acoustic, including “Lowlands of Holland”, “Julie”, “Haven’t Made It Yet”, “The Road” and “Far From Home”. The crowd welcomed, embraced and demanded new songs and reworkings, but they also felt a sense of security that these classic songs were played with their original arrangements.
The most poignant song performed in its entirety, which got the Hackney Empire on their feet, was “The Boatman”. Whether it was the profound message to fight to live a free life that you choose instead of one imposed by you or the special appearance of Stephen Boakes on didgeridoo for the extended folk and psychedelic jig, poignant emotions ran high.
So how does one conclude such a show? You play your biggest-selling single, “Just the One”. Whether they were born in 1995 or after, the crowd of several generations knew when audience participation was required and what to sing and hum when promoted.
As well as continuing to demonstrate outstanding musicianship after 35 years, the Levellers also showed a good rapport with the crowd and amongst themselves. Mark told stories of how Dan Donnelly wrote “Sitting in the Social” with “a crayon” and when he dropped his iPhone from a great height. Whether the use of crayons keeps the Leveller’s creative mojo going or not, the band put on another masterpiece of a show that proved why after 35 years, fans were still “Together All The Way” with them.
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