Sheffield Music Live: The Levellers bring their frenetic folk rock energy to The Leadmill, Sheffield
A Monday evening gig in Sheffield may seem a long way from headlining Glastonbury, but nevertheless The Levellers brought the same energy levels to The Leadmill that saw them become festival staples in the early Nineties.
Having seen two pandemic-related postponements, the famed venue was packed by the time South Yorkshire comedy-folk trio The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican warmed the crowd up with an amusing opening act.
As one of the smaller venues on their tour, The Leadmill offered fans an opportunity to enjoy a more intimate evening with the band. Although the size of the stage did prevent bassist Jeremy Cunningham and fiddler Jon Sevink running back-and-forth swapping microphones, the band still gave a typically blistering performance, led from the front by singer Mark Chadwick.
Days before the show it was announced that the group would be without guitarist Simon Friend for the tour, with Dan Donnelly instead drafted in. Such news could have derailed other bands, but Donnelly proved an ideal stand-in on guitar, and assisted with backing vocals along with keyboardist Matt Savage.
Celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their seminal album, Levelling the Land, the band played the album in its full, original order. Clearly in no mood to waste time, the Brighton based folk-rockers drove straight into opener ‘One Way’ the moment they took to the stage, with fans heartily singing along to every word. The vibrant momentum continued through ‘The Game’ and ‘Fifteen Years’, early indicators that the band and crowd were equally thrilled to finally be together after an almost two-year wait since the original tour announcement.
Following the blistering start, the crowd were afforded a much-needed moment to relax during the acoustic ‘Far from Home’ before the pace quickly picked up again with ‘Sell Out’ which saw both the band and audience jumping in delight, providing a highlight of the night. The excitement levels seemed to further increase with a lively rendition of ‘The Riverflow’, with one overexuberant fan briefly managing to make it over to safety barrier to film the performance.
Having finished the album with ‘Battle of the Beanfield’, Chadwick quipped that they did not know how to fill the rest of the night - fortunately for those in attendance, the Levellers dug deep into their thirty-year back catalogue to play an assortment of hits. Songs ranging from their 1990 debut to their latest release, 2020’s Peace, were played to equal adoration from an audience that seemed delighted to be finally reunited with live music.
After a marathon eighteen song opening set, a three-song encore - vocally demanded by the masses in attendance - provided one last chance for a singalong with ‘What A Beautiful Day’ before finishing with a dramatic cover of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’.
On a cold Monday evening in Sheffield, The Levellers proved why they are considered one of the best live bands still touring. On form like this, it would not be a surprise to see them back in South Yorkshire celebrating future anniversaries of their classic album.