The entire crowd rose up and down in waves while the band performed their best rabble-rousing songs on post-election day. The English civil war was over, or at least suspended for the time being, and the fans had come by bus and underground to hear the favourites. They got "One Way", "The Game" and "Sell Out" from a bunch of musicians who seemed more interested in playing than talking to their audience.
Mark Chadwick only made one reference to the Conservative defeat during the whole evening, in the form of an appropriately rude remark when he first came on stage about Michael Portillo. Above the band, a giant rolling anarchy sign promised further turmoil. Most of the time, though, Chadwick was content to just sing, strum and grin.
When The Levellers played "Battle of the Beanfield", their 1991 song about traveller harassment and eviction, Simon Friend's harmonica wailed plaintively above the portentous throbbing drum. Nice bit of menace there, but he also used the instrument in some of the faster numbers to good effect, giving an extra lift to Jon Sevink's driving fiddle-playing.
If The Levellers were disappointed about the part of the gig that went wrong, then they didn't show it, apart maybe from coming on stage a little late. There was supposed to be a dance half to the event, featuring an on-screen video link up to the 1997 Brighton Fringe Festival - hence the new dance floor. Instead, the hi-tech stuff went haywire somewhere along the line, and all the people got was the accompanying light show. It was left to a raggle-taggle band to hold things together. The Levellers did this, no problem.
They really look as if they should be playing to road-protesters at one end of a pub in Newbury, but their success has forced them into the big venue where they make interesting use of the space. Last Friday night, one quarter of the stage area was filled by the flailing movements of dreadlocked bass player Jeremy Cunningham, while Sevink's extension lead allowed him to patrol far and wide. Meanwhile, Friend and Chadwick shared the vocals for a demanding set - with a lot of help from their followers when the choruses came around. "There's only one way of life," they sang, "and that's your own." Everybody in the Academy was agreed about that. The Levellers sweated out the last of their songs about injustice and hope, while behind them searchlights beamed questions at the skyReuse content