The Levellers – In Concert from Sheffield December 18, 1995 – BBC In Concert Series –
The Levellers in concert tonight. Recorded live at Sheffield Arena on December 18, 1995 and recorded by BBC Radio 1 for their In concert series.
The Levellers formed in Brighton, England in 1988, consisting of Mark Chadwick (guitar and vocals), Jeremy Cunningham (bass guitar), Charlie Heather (drums), Jon Sevink (violin), Simon Friend (guitar and vocals), Matt Savage (keyboards), and Dan Donnelly (guitar and vocals). Taking their name from the Levellers political movement, the band released their first EP in 1989 and LP in 1990, with international success following upon signing to China Records and the release of their second album Levelling the Land. The band were among the most popular indie bands in Britain in the early 1990s, and headlined at the Glastonbury Festival in 1994, where they performed on The Pyramid Stage to a record crowd of 300,000 people.
In 1994 the band purchased a derelict factory in Brighton, named the “Metway” after the factory’s original owners, and created a self-contained headquarters. The buildings housed their offices, fan club, rehearsal area, a bar and a recording studio that was initially equipped with gear bought from Tom Robinson. The move enabled the band to operate on their own terms as far as possible. The spare space that remained was given over to other Brighton musicians and small craft businesses. Weekly anarchist newspaper SchNEWS also set up their office in the building.
“Hope Street”, the lead single from the Zeitgeist album, was the first recording to come out of Metway. The album was released in September 1995 and charted at No. 2 in the week of its release. Buoyed by the initial success, manager Phil Nelson persuaded China Records to advertise the album on television and, unusually, the album reached No. 1 in its second week on the chart. The third single released from this album took the Levellers to their first Top of the Pops appearance, playing the tongue-in-cheek drinking anthem “Just the One” whilst dressed in tuxedos. “Just the One” was specially re-recorded for the single release, with The Clash’s frontman and long-time Levellers hero Joe Strummer guesting on honky tonk piano. It reached No. 12 in the UK.
The Levellers embarked on another tour of Europe and the UK towards the end of 1995, culminating in a one-off “Christmas Freakshow” at Sheffield Arena on 18 December. This was recorded by the BBC with eight songs being broadcast at a later date on Radio 1. The 1995 “Total Chaos” tour came to an end on 7 February 1996 at Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom with a show that was filmed for the video and live album release, Headlights, White Lines, Black Tar Rivers (Best Live). The album reached No. 13 in the UK Albums Chart and a less extensive UK tour was undertaken in September/October to support the record’s release. An EP Exodus EP was lifted from the live album.
The band returned to the studio through late 1996 and early 1997 when the album Mouth to Mouth was recorded. Their first gigs in several months coincided with the Labour Party’s landslide general election victory on 1 May 1997, one being held at Manchester Academy and a second at London’s Brixton Academy the following night. These gigs previewed several new songs including “What a Beautiful Day”, which became the first single release from Mouth to Mouth and reached No. 13 on the UK chart.
In 2016 they embarked on a UK tour of the Levelling The Land album to mark its 25th anniversary, reissuing the album themselves in a special box set along with a live recording of the album. In 2017, they began working with producer John Leckie at Abbey Road’s Studio 2. In 2018, the Levellers released We the Collective in which they reworked several of their songs with a string and percussion section composed of members of folk-rock band Moulettes. Hannah Moulette also sings on some tracks. The collective recorded two entirely new tracks “The Shame” and “Drug Bust McGee” to create a 10 track album. The album reached number 12 in the UK Albums Chart.
On 7 February 2020, the band announced via their Twitter account that their new album Peace would be released on 14 August 2020, with the advance release of first single ‘Food Roof Family’. It was the band’s first studio album of new material in eight years.
For a reminder what they were up to in 1995 here is that Sheffield concert as it was recorded on December 18, 1995.
Crank it up and don’t miss a note.
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