Levelling the Dome..
Of course being in dire need of a rest from a fairly relentless few months of going to gigs, what better way to wind down from the crescendo of last weekend than going to see the Levellers on their Beautiful Nights mini-tour last week? Ha. After finishing up work Ella and I hotfooted it up to Doncaster to check in to the slightly sinister Campanile Hotel which is right next to the venue, and looks a bit like an American motel with the rooms in a block on two levels separate from the reception and bar area.
As well as us numerous friends were also staying there – Dave, Caroline, Dave, Nadine, Naomi, Kev and Magz. Dave and Caroline were already there, and once we’d got ourselves sorted the first order of duty was to head round to nearby Brewers Fayre for some drinks, socialising and food. Eventually everyone had arrived including Becky, Pete, Rachel so we headed on over to the venue shortly after it had opened – and well, frankly it was a riot of people we knew which was great.
The Doncaster Dome is an interesting venue, a multi-functional space you’re assaulted immediately with a chlorine smell from the swimming pool, enticed tantalisingly by a children’s play area as you head to the dome itself and descend to the floor level which housed a bar and the merchandise stall. I resisted a splurge and instead just nattered to the countless friends assembling – the sound insulation was pretty good too as by the time I’d thought to check the time I’d managed to miss Ruts DC which was a bit annoying – I’ve seen highly appreciative comments on Facebook about their set.
However, socialising is good too – so I’ll live! Having realised our error we went on through to the performance area in plenty of time to see the second support act of the night, Dreadzone. It’s a huge open room with a balcony, bar and toilets at the back and stage slightly off centre on the far side. It’s a wide and fairly shallow hall that I can’t help but think would be better with the stage on one of the shorter walls. Soon enough though Dreadzone were on the stage and hitting us with their dub reggae dance rock infusion – we found a spot pretty far back intending to just enjoy the show this evening!
My knowledge of Dreadzone tracks isn’t amazing – even though they do perambulate around my playlists quite a lot, but a lively set included Iron Shirt which of course takes samples from Max Romeo’s I Chase The Devil much like Prodigy’s Out of Space. The lights were pretty good if unspectacular – obviously saving their full assault for the main act. A bouncy and fun set that compels you to move seemed to be over really quickly – concluding with Little Britain and Captain Dread to rapturous applause from the packed hall.
Then on to the main event – Levellers gigs used to be bigger events in my consciousness than they are now I’ve become much more immersed in a musical odyssey, but there’s still something a bit bloody special at that moment when they take the stage and the crowd go mental. They launched into England My Home with a spectacular confetti cannon blasting into the crowd and I was a bit worried when it sounded like Mark had been chugging on a helium balloon with higher vocals – luckily it must’ve been a quirk in the mixing desk as it resolved itself in subsequent songs.
Beautiful Day was up next to get the crowd bouncing from the off, Mark had a lyrical slip in there but everyone recovered (and let’s face it, the crowd were more than capable of filling in the gaps!), this was followed up with a new song Our New Day – an energetic number with Simon on vocals, sounded good, hopefully it
‘s one that will make it through to recording, ooh, new Levellers material. That’s an exciting prospect! Belaruse was next and then Fifteen Years as the set list nicely hopped between different albums and eras.
World Freakshow bounced its way into a singalong for Far From Home before the bass-leaden intro to Sell Out chugged through the sound system – still as relevant today as the day it was written. The band withdrew leaving Simon to perform another new song on his own, I think it’s called The Shame and felt very timely from the lyrics I caught centring about profiteering from war and the arms trade and history repeating itself. That is certainly something that has been playing on my mind with recent political developments.
Boaksie took to the stage with his didge as the band launched into This Garden – in the distance we spotted Nadine up on Dave’s shoulders for a birthday boogie, calling the retreating Boaksie back Mark referred to him as a horrible arsehole which seemed a bit mean, but could only mean anthem One Way was up next – I think he did retract the comment later though, and the grinning be-makeuped didge-man didn’t seem to mind too much as he cavorted merrily round the stage accompanying them.
Too Real was up next – a treat for me, it’s one of my favourites and unlike Holmfirth no lyrical slips this time. Even though we’d stayed back from the action it was getting really warm (of course we were still dancing about a lot), a real contrast from the arctic air conditioning in Rock City last week! They moved up to date with my favourite of their recent album tracks Mutiny, then in to Ella’s favourite Truth Is before the harmonica intro for Carry Me kicked in – irritatingly a bloke was loudly shouting a conversation to his mates including ‘putting a steel toe cap in someone’s face’ rather than listening – apparently missing the sentiment of the song.
Not to worry, being the amusing wits that we were Paul and I feigned trying to get Ella to ‘carry’ us whilst having a good old dance around and singalong. Dirty Davey was up next and in the distance we saw a familiar silhouette of Björn being hoisted to the air by Tom, and dancing spectacularly out of time considering what a talented musician he is! Scott and Amanda were stood close by, he’d clocked the debacle and was shaking his head – and lamented that he shouldn’t be seen as responsible for his bandmate when it was pointed out to him what was happening. Highly amusing!
Cholera Well was up next which is Simon’s favourite, so Ella called him so he could listen in – I can’t imagine the quality was great but it’s the thought that counts! Then Riverflow marked a frenetic finish to the main set. With a clock check given the 11pm curfew we knew there’d be space for a couple more songs – the encore was Battle of the Beanfield which saw Tina taking a turn on Tom’s shoulders – a pretty moving moment, I know that the events this song chronicles are particularly poignant for her. The encore finished with Liberty and another cannon of tissue confetti to stick to all the sweaty moshers at the front.
A cracking performance indeed – outside in the dome bit volunteers (including Scott) were handing out the free live CDs promised to us, there seemed to be a surplus as both Ella and I grabbed an extra one so we could let Simon have one and one for Brad since he’d been hoodwinked into babysitting by his parents before he realised the reason why. Ha ha! Top cunningness Jez and Julie! A marathon round of goodbyes and shepherding the Campanile Hotel crew together saw us nip to the 24 hour Asda over the round for supplies.
Once back at the hotel we had a ridiculously sumptuous cheese, port and meat party in Dave and Nadine’s room (since they had others from our group as immediate neighbours so less likely to disturb other folk staying there). We wiled away a couple of hours eating angry chilli cheese, drinking lovely port and basically having a really good laugh – although the least said about natural yoghurt and black flies the better. An awesomely good evening with amazing music and fantastic friends.