Pop: Levellers take the branch line

Green concerns are to the fore as the Levellers go on the road. As Tim Perry discovers, they plan to make up for the tour's pollution by encouraging fans to sponsor trees
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Indy Lifestyle Online
You know the gig. The band you thought you'd never go to see. The one that seemed as square as supporting Manchester United. Then there came this one time you couldn't avoid it and surprisingly it turned out OK. Indeed, a warm night this May at the Brixton Academy, with loads of alcohol, a slab of drum'n'bass and an energetic set from the Levellers did make a fine night out.

"It's always been like this at our gigs," maintains Levellers' bassist, Jeremy Cunningham, sitting in his Glasgow hotel a short way into a tour that will see them on the road throughout Europe until Christmas. "I guess, though, that this could be called the rebirth or something, and there's a bit more of a techno and a jungle feel about it. Our new material [from the Top-5 album Mouth to Mouth] has gone down so well we've been able to drop `One Way'. We were quite glad to do that. We didn't want it turning into a `Smoke On the Water' or `Paranoid'."

Further indication that the Levellers might not be the anachronistic load of old crusties that some write them off as, comes with their choice of support act - the Alabama 3 - a current buzz band who wrap country, blues and gospel into a tight techno shell.

"Yeah," says Cunningham, "we always try to give value, as for some people a tenner is a lot of money." The sell-out shows have been opening with Rory McLeod, a solo performer who "plays everything but the kitchen sink. He starts off on guitar, then plays the spoons, tap dances on a wooden board and all sorts of other things." As for the weird and wacky world of Alabama 3, "One night they had glasses and God knows what thrown at them, but credit to them, they've stuck it out and sections of fans are now really getting into it." This hasn't fazed the band's the Reverend D Wayne Love, who slurringly reports, "Aye, it's been pretty quiet. This touring, you know, is just about sitting around and reading books before we do our wee show."

Meanwhile, all this scuttling around on motorways has apparently taken its toll on the environment as the band's truck and the cars that carry fans to gigs emit greenhouse gases. Some friends of the Levellers in the Future Forests campaign are currently calculating how many trees this roadshow will kill off. "That's right," says Cunningham, "we want to put a little back in and at our merch [sic] stall, people can sponsor a tree for three quid."

The trees won't be planted during the tour. Presumably that's to avoid the threat of a passing member of the famously partied up Alabama 3 falling over and squashing the hapless saplings with their boots. "Er, I suppose that's a point," says Cunningham.

Levellers, Alabama 3 and Rory McLeod Forum, Kentish Town, (0171-344 0044) 1 and 2 Oct

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