Sunday, 29 April 2007

The words that you heard when you were young

The Levellers, Warwick Arts Centre, 27 April 2007.

At what point should one become concerned about one's experience of live music becoming a matter of nostalgia? Well, if that sort of thing makes you cringe, be warned; the Wordpress servers are poised to splatter my youth incontinently across the blogosphere. Notionally at least, I hauled forth my Alsatian-on-a-string, adjusted the greasy dreads, pulled on the German army surplus overcoat (ironed by mother), and - erm - popped my Saver Return to Coventry on the plastic.

This gig was the soundtrack to my teens, my adolescence bunsen-burnered and reduced to a crystalline musical form in just ninety minutes. I didn't feel particularly wounded that we'd had to settle for 17 quid's worth of upholstery (standing sold out) and a rather acute view of the stage. I was knackered because I'd hopped a train straight from work, but in the (ahem) 'old days' I'm sure we would have boinged our way in with the groundlings. As it was we'd come from Cardiff, Norwich and the Potteries, and I for one couldn't be arsed.

Living in Stoke-on-Trent, I'm largely deprived of double-decker buses nowadays, and so it was with a distinct sense of old-time glee that I rode high above the leafy thoroughfares of Earlsdon and Hearsall Common, past the spot where Frank Whittle first witnessed powered flight, and swamped by gaggles of prospective management consultants whinging about what a shithole Coventry is (their opinion, not mine).

Presently, we approached the university campus. INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL, proclaimed the puffed-up banners on every lamp-post. Ha, clever, these milkround men! FESTIVAL PARK WITH AN IQ would have been my offering. I've never been one for campus universities, and this one is awash with high-end eateries, multi-storey car parks, its own branch of Fopp (a sizeable adjunct to the bookshop) and a massive Costcutter. An oddly repellent formula, but clearly seductive to students. Indeed, it's 36 years since E.P. Thompson wrote a critique called Warwick University Limited and then packed his bags (fat lot of difference that made, then). It's certainly gone upmarket since my dad used to bring me to work on Saturdays, and I'm fairly sure it was rather upmarket in the first place.

A couple of Black Sheeps swiftly sunk (in the upscale arts centre bar) and the three of us wobbled to our seats in time for the last number by a support act whose name evades me. Once the gig was underway, I became painfully aware that I was tapping my feet sedately to the classics - Riverflow, The Road, Hope Street etc.

There may be better bands, but few are as much fun live and on returning from the bar (where some forty-somethings are complaining about the 'fascist stewards') we perch ourselves in the heavens on some handy steps and bob about while the band belts out Beautiful Day. Jon and I righteously concurred, once upon a time, that this song indicated the band's inevitable sell-out, but it certainly sounds grand tonight. Did I say fun? Well I enjoyed it, and surprised myself by not feeling at all envious of the throng below.

A couple of us once secured prized passes for the Levellers' backstage 'party' (same venue: an ice bucket with a solitary can of Guinness, while the band wandered off to watch Match of the Day), but tonight we simply headed off for a curry with the warm echoes of Classic Gold resounding in our ears.

Any free-thinking radicals wearing army surplus had been no doubt intercepted by security upon breaching the boundaries of the Business School. That or they're too busy pursuing MBAs to bother with this sort of stuff. And me? Well, I'd love to blog into the small hours, but I've got work in the morning.

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