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23 November 2004: Levellers - Queens Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK

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The Queen’s Theatre in Stoke appears to be the only place in Stoke-on-Trent that isn’t sign posted by a large brown sign. Consequently and regrettably, I missed much of Dan Donnelly’s set and only arrived in time to hear part of the second to last song and all of his final number, which was a song about how he "Sounds like David Gray". Good stuff.

The venue itself was all seating (with the exception of a small space right at the front), with the downstairs, which had originally been converted to standing space, being taken up by a large section of temporary seating.

I got a seat on the second row with a great view of the stage and I didn’t have to wait long for the Levellers to arrive on stage. As soon as the band appeared there was a rush from the seats to get to the standing space at the front.

Before they started someone asked if they’d had a nice curry and this started off the banter for the evening.

The Levellers have been busy since the summer festival season finished and the show started with one of two new tracks that the band played tonight. The first track was instantly likeable and at the end Mark asked where his words were in case he couldn’t remember them. Someone pointed out that he had remembered them and Mark responded by saying that we wouldn’t know, because it was the first time the song had been played.

As this was an acoustic set, the show was split into two halves. The first half started at about 20:15 and finished at 21:15 and the second half started at about 21:30 and the show finished at about 22:40.

The first half of the set seemed to speed past and after playing "Is this Art", "Another Man’s Cause", "Julie", a solo "When Love Runs Out Of Time" from Simon and what seemed like a slowed down "The Last Days of Winter", plus others, the band left the stage.

I missed the first song after the break because I was watching an argument between the security staff and some people with drinks over whether they could take the drinks into the venue. The gap to get into the downstairs seating area of the venue was quite narrow and you had to walk past the security staff to see the show. But the bar was outside of the venue at the back, so to get a drink you had to leave stage front. After much pushing and shoving the people were eventually persuaded to drink their drinks very quickly and were then allowed back into the venue.

This was a feature of the night. During the first half Mark had spotted someone trying to pinch his beer and challenged them that if they could reach it, then they could have it. They could reach it and Mark’s pint disappeared. Mark also asked of the audience, "Can you really not drink or smoke in here?" and we all shouted "No" and he responded with "I wondered why there was no one here". To be fair, the venue did look quite empty, but in my opinion this was because a lot of the people who would have been in the seats were standing at the front, in the first 5 yards of space, giving the venue an overall impression of emptiness. This culminated in Jon fetching a number of pints of beer from the back of the stage and dishing them out to the audience. Shame he didn’t get us all one.

Mark eventually gave in to having a cigarette, saying "Oh, f**k it, I’m gonna have a fag", as apparently there was a no smoking policy on stage as well.

The second half was made up of "Four winds", "Beautiful Day", an excellent "Far from home", "Not in my Name" (which seemed to have been rearranged slightly from the last time I heard it), "Carry Me" and "Burford Stomp".

There was also another great new song in there as well, that contained a line that sounded like "Look not for the last man". After finishing this song Mark said "That’s the fastest we’ve ever played that".

The encore started with an appearance from what I assume was Boaksey, but I didn’t recognise him without his makeup on, which launched us into "One Way", "Dirty Davey" and "Riverflow", before the band left the stage again.

After a lot of shouting and stamping of feet, the Levellers reappeared, and Mark reminded us that there was a CD of the show for sale straight after from DiscLive Europe. This is the first time that this service has been offered in the UK and allows you to take a copy of the show home with you.

"Just the One" was what I assumed to be the final track, but I was genuinely surprised when they stayed for another.

This final song made my night as it’s been years since I have seen them play it. "What you know" went down a storm and was made all the more special by the fact that the Levellers seemed to be relearning how to play it as they went along. Mark pointing and waving at Jeremy and Charlie throughout the song and there seemed to be a couple of cock-ups, but it was so good to hear the song live again that no one seemed to notice. It sounded brilliant and it was fantastic to hear it again.

Great gig. And I’ve never seen a venue empty so slowly. Everyone seemed to be queuing to buy a copy of the show. I was glad I’d pre-ordered my copy.

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