It's a freezing cold night in Manchester and a long way from the warm days of the 'Beautiful Days' festival held in August when we arrive at the Apollo for the Levellers' 'Beautiful Nights' gig to celebrate their 20 years of togetherness. We collect our guest passes and attempt to retire to the pub to await the doors opening, but there's no room at the inn tonight and the queue starts moving so we go in. I'm disappointed as I'll be up in the circle rather than down in the stalls, but there are ways around these things, even with the Apollo's over officious security, and we find one.

The first guests for the night are 3 Daft Monkeys, who really get the crowd going especially as it's early and there's plenty of room down the front to dance, although I sat in the circle. Honest, guv. The Alabama 3(Acoustic) who follow do lose some of this momentum, as the music slows down a bit. It's a shame because tonight I find that the sound system doesn't do Larry Love any favours and I can't make any sense of what he's saying at all. Despite that, I still enjoy their set, particuarly their opening cover of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' which is dedicated to Ian Curtis, but there are rumblings from others in the audience.

I can tell that it's going to be mayhem for the Levellers, so I retire graciously to my seat so that I can make scribblings without my notebook going flying, while my photographer heads off to the pit to do his duty. The Levellers' set starts off with a bagpipe which leads into 'England My Home'. A single balloon is making the rounds above the audience. One time this might have been an inflatable dinghy, but have you tried getting one of those into Manchester Apollo ? By the time the Levellers are onto 'A Life Less Ordinary' they are bouncing along with the audience. Banter seems to be lacking at first, but with 'Sell Out' Mark Chadwick starts chatting more. During 'Beautiful Day' there are videos of the festival on the wall behind, which is a bit distracting as I end up watching them to see if I can see anyone I knew.

I know we're about half way on when 'The Didgeroo' starts up to a background of static TV screens. My photographer returns to try and get some shots from the balcony, but the security decide that's not allowed and he gets his camera confiscated - apparently you're only allowed to take photos from the pit for the first five songs and he should know, although he'd been taking them for seven songs and no one had said anything about it. After 'One Way', the Levellers start with a new song, 'Burn America Burn'. Not so many people know this one, so the crowd aren't moving around so much, but some old favourites soon have them off again. After 'Riverflow' there are two encores, and there's actually someone crowd surfing to the Levellers which is a bit of a novelty for me. I'm used to people standing on shoulders, another thing that's discouraged here, but not crowd surfing.

It's been a good night, apart from the heavy handed security. We hear more stories after the show about people being ejected from the building for minor misdemeanours and missing out on the show. We collect the camera from its place of (free) safe keeping and drive off into the night glad that our small incident didn't spoil what was otherwise a brilliant evening.

The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Neil Bailey.

Related Links:

Commenting On: Apollo, Manchester, 5/3/2008 - Levellers

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

First Previous Next Last