|The Levellers / Ferocious Dog / Gaz Brookfield – Cardiff Tramshed – 23 November 2016|
|Written by Nev Brooks|
|Thursday, 01 December 2016 03:30|
Every now and again we hear an LP that sticks with us throughout the best part of our adult life, coming at us from a time that might not have been the best.
Think back to the Thatcher years, how many of us were taken to court for non-payment of Poll Tax (remember that?) we blindly accepted it many years later when it was rebranded and called something else. Remember the miners' strike? Coming from the Welsh valleys I had my political views shaped by the monster that was called Thatcher, the sell off of housing, the sell off of industry, and everything else that was pushed through regardless by a mad woman on a power trip, so why the rant?
Tonight I get to see The Levellers performing 'Levelling The Land' in its entirety: an album of the time, full of power, intensity and political kick back, pushing ‘One Way Of Life’, not pandering to what the political landscape desired.
But on with the show, first up Gaz Brookfield a solo acoustic musician coming at us out of Bristol. Since winning ‘Acoustic’ magazine's 2010 Singer Songwriter of the year award, he has spent his time on the road, touring the UK and Europe. In this time he has shared the stage with the likes of The Levellers, Frank Turner, New Model Army, Nick Harper, Newton Faulkner, Miles Hunt, Seth Lakeman and many more, racking up over 1000 gigs, this guy knows how to work a crowd.
Gaz remains the only unsigned solo artist to sell out The Fleece, Bristol. A feat he has now achieved four times, the last two selling out over six months in advance. You realize the pull when the venue is three quarters full less than 15 minutes after doors opening, so what was the music like, as a guy standing on stage with an electric acoustic you sort of know how it’s going to sound, but first track up ‘I can’t drink cider anymore’ brought a smile to my face that stayed there throughout, a great opening listening to tour stories, the guy has been linked to the Levellers for the last four and a half years.
Next up being honest a band that I had heard nothing by Ferocious Dog even though they keep popping up on my social media, very often notification of yet another sell out gig!!!
Watching the band walk on stage the first thing I clocked was the singers green spiked Mohawk, the next thing was the classic vintage Dead Kennedys tour shirt sported by the bass player… interesting. Something is nagging at me, do I know the guitar player???? Yup, it’s Fruitbat from Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. Checking out some background post gig, again I see a collective grounded in influences from The Levellers, New Model Army, The Wonderstuff, PWEI, all from the time all linked to a time with a huge political bias ruled by a dictator with an iron fist, music was always going to find it’s voice and kick against it.
Musically Ferocious Dog come across as very much a mix up of the Levellers and New Model Army but with a real hardline punk edge even the Fiddle had an edge and in Ken Bonsall a frontman with something to say.
Listening to the band my thoughts couldn’t help but stray towards the Pogues; not the Pogues I saw falling apart at the Reading Festival but a more hardline Pogues that could have been had Shane McGowan stayed sober. Maybe even the version of the Pogues that could have developed with Joe Strummer in charge. The by now full Tramshed, again the sign of a band going places, hung on every word, the in the know following singing along to every word.
So on to the main event, starting with a film montage, the time, the place bringing back memories hugely political, running through Strikes, sell -off’s ,wars and the crushing of the masses but also showing the political landscape changing moving forward, finishing with the carnage that's just about to be released with firstly Brexit and then Trump getting his finger on the button, makes you realize how timeless the message within Levelling the land is, it transcends Thatcher sitting nicely within what’s happening in the World today.
I’m not going to dumb it down and give you a track by track breakdown: everyone should know the album, From the kick off of ‘One Way…’ the confetti explosion over the crowd, almost at Sick Livers levels and into ‘The Game’ which I have to say knocked me sideways; the vocal on ‘I Don’t Believe In Heaven, I Don’t Believe In Hell’ hitting the atheist in me especially hard and it just kept coming (if you’ve never caught the Levellers live, treat yourself): ‘Liberty’, ‘Sell-Out’ and ‘Riverflow’ before we hit the monster that is ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ and part one was over, what a show. Before you know it, things have moved on and we get a second part that included, ‘Belaruse’, ‘Truth is’, ‘Carry me’, ‘Cholera Well’, Julie’ and an outstanding ‘Beautiful day’ - and they were gone.
I’ve not seen the Tramshed so packed, a real sell out, but did the music sell out? No fucking way… as relevant today as when it was first written. What a gig!