Friday 16th November 2012
The Engine Shed in Lincoln, UK
Reviews by Hannah Sylvester; Photography by Mark Holmes
Gig number 1255, Lincoln’s Engine Shed.. you have to take your hat off to a band who keep a log of every single gig they’ve ever performed over the last 20 or so years! Now, I’ve never come across southern sextet Citizen Fish before, and hadn’t had the time to check them out before the gig, but I did know that they were a punk-ska band from down south, and if The Levellers had deemed them a good support act, and with that many gigs under their belts, this was probably going to be a great way to start an undoubtedly fun evening. With a distinct punky edge to their ska influence, and politically and social influenced lyrics, first standout track of the evening that starts to get the crowd going is “HD Riot” from their latest album ‘Dancing on Spikes’, about the Tottenham riots and the crazy looting of material goods to up people’s social standing. In fact, ‘Dancing on Spikes’ is a pretty apt title, as vocalist Dick barely keeps still the entire set. With traditional ska-instrument additions of trumpet and trombone, with Alex the trumpet player switching to accordion for one song, awesome bass licks and incredibly catchy songs, Citizen Fish thunder through ‘It Can’t Go On Forever’, ‘Over’ and finish with ‘Wake Up’, with a distinctly heavier guitar sound. Exuding boundless energy from start to finish, sure some punters may have been a little static at the start, but most of the crowd gets caught up in the vibe by the end, with much cheers and applause at the climax. Okay, so they might be more used to playing smaller venues than this, and sure, you can imagine that in a more intimate venue, it might suit their style better but I, for one, and I don’t think I was alone, massively enjoyed it and more than got me in the mood for The Levellers.
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So about a year and a half on from their last visit to Lincoln, when they played their 90s classic ‘Levelling The Land’ in its entirety, the Levellers make a welcome to the city, but this time without a better-known support band (The Wonder Stuff were in tow last year). Perhaps this accounts a little for the slightly lower attendance than in 2011 but, still, in these times of financial constraints and people cutting back on social activities, the Engine Shed is still pretty rammed this evening, and full of like-minded souls out for an evening of solid, enjoyable, jiggable tunes and much fun in the process. Following a well-regarded return to form on recent albums, but especially with newest release ‘Static on The Airwaves’, ‘We Are All Gunmen’ starts off the evening’s performance, one that maybe not all the crowd are familiar with, judging by the relatively static nature of the crowd. However, by the time that ‘Beautiful Day’ starts, that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the evening, with dancing and jigging from front to back, but especially for those of us brave enough to stick at the front for the entire gig, taking part in what could only be described as the friendliest, happiest jig-pit you could ever hope to be a part of. Keeping the talking to a minimum this time, Mark and the rest of the band pound through an impressive 22 track setlist comprised of most of the well-loved classics, from sing-a-long favourite ‘Carry Me’, through numerous airings of ‘Levelling the Land’ tracks, including a longer on-stage presence from the didgeman Stephen Boakes, who not only plays the jig at the end of ‘The Boatman’, but also comes back out onstage for ‘One Way’ this year. Exuding their usual boundless energy, enthusiasm and professional onstage presence, their set, comprises of tracks spanning their entire career, speeds by far too quickly, and they return for a welcome encore of ‘Liberty Song’, which means one more chance for a frenzied jig pit. But wait, hang on, didn’t I read somewhere online about them inviting local musicians to join them for a last-minute audition and the lucky chosen ones would join them onstage for a song? Surely Lincoln wasn’t devoid of folk talent. Indeed not. So after what I assumed would be it, after ‘Liberty Song’, local folk, Kalina (violin), Aiden (mandolin), Phil (banjo) and another mandolin player are welcomed onto the stage for a rendition of the old rebel song ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’. Played well by all, and a great, unique way of getting people involved, I wonder whether it would have fitted in better mid-set, as after the high of the encore, it takes the tone down a little for me but, still, I can’t really knock it as it’s a great idea. And for a band that have such an avid and dedicated fanbase that follow them not only around the country but also abroad, having the chance to play onstage with one of your favourite bands is pretty special, let’s face it. An incredibly massive amount of fun and never failing to disappoint, one of the gigging highlights of the year – but then again, if you’ve seen them before, it was always going to be. Hundreds of happy smiling faces can’t be wrong.
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Levellers at The Engine Shed in Lincoln, UK, 16th November 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com