October 13, 2015 by Robb Powell
Stepping away from the Levellers boys, gig #4 of Gigtober was a Mark Chadwick solo show at The Musician in Leicester. Ah, The Musician pub. This is the kind of place that every town should have. It is the pub that Northampton desperately needs. There’s such an ambience within no matter what genre of music the night is putting on (and it draws musicians from right across the spectrum). Previous gigs I have enjoyed there include Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, Willy Mason (the one and only, that was one heck of a rammed gig, quality if somewhat sweaty!!) and Mark’s fellow Leveller, Simon Friend (Simon Friend’s Seismic Survey). I will admit I was expecting mostly solo material from Mr Chadwick and even a band behind him as has been the case in the past. The fact this didn’t happen was certainly no disappointment at all, and I must say it has got to be one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
Waiting for Mark to appear from behind the curtain at the back of the stage where he might have been meditating, chilling out pre-gig perhaps, I felt someone walk past me from the back. A bustle through the crowd and there he was. ‘Been on a pub crawl with young Robert who will be selling merchandise at the back’ he revealed, adding much later ‘…the money from which is Rob’s beer money, so come on’. Thus ensued an evening of a delightfully tipsy Mr Chadwick that as I stated above is easily one of the most enjoyable live music experiences I’ve had thus far. The camaraderie, that almost symbiotic-relationship he has with such a loyal fan base, about a third of who (myself included), at a hand count, had previously bought his solo material and were thus not just there for ‘all the hits and shit’ as he casually and comically put it in a leisurely laid back kind of way that made me want to sit back relax and absorb it all up like a sensory sponge. With drink in hand but, damn it I had the drive back! Next time I’m totally kipping on the pub floor after. I can drive back the next morning.
Opening with a curiously (albeit only ever-so-slightly) different sounding version of the Rev Hammer-penned stonker Maid of the River which, as it turned out had been played in a dropped D. ‘It’s gonna get better, I promise’ he laughed. Even if it didn’t it really wouldn’t have mattered but the quality of the night progressed to the lofty heights you’d expect from such a veteran musician and performer. It is just so effortless for him because it is obviously ingrained so deeply within. The guitar is an extension of the person. It is part of him. Kind of like another limb, I guess. Many more Levellers classics followed in full stripped back acoustic finery and along to which the crowd couldn’t but sing along in great full chorus – just much less moshing than is usual. I hadn’t expected Boatman if I’m honest, with it being more a Simon Friend song (not that this matters of course, it is all Levellers nonetheless) but it being one of my favourites of all time EVER, it was perfection.
We were treated to Fifteen Years, Julie, Another Man’s Cause, and Riverflow as well as very appropriately Just The One (which made me want a drink even more but a diet coke filled with ice I didn’t ask for sufficed and caffeinated me for the drive home later). He said he’d be happy to do What A Beautiful Day so long as we all did the dance, which he then demonstrated. It appeared to be the two shift couplet, let’s call it. Two shuffles to the left – turn – two shuffles to the right. ‘We are in the Midlands….’ Mark chuckled, ‘You’re all born knowing how to do that dance…’ Even more exquisite dance moves were requested for the slower protest song No Change in the form of a Waltz (for which we could have added our vocal violin sounds too – see below). Admittedly there was less Matildas waltzing across the dancefloor more different sections of the audience descending into their own thing. Some decent waltz-imitations one end, very bad ones the other while the back had fallen into some kind of trance-induced swaying. There was also One Way and even though this too was of course a stripped back acoustic version it never sounds anything other than deeply anthemic. It is THE song EVERYONE should live by! Wake up! Live! We’d shown our best dance moves (well, I say best…) while other songs required our vocal involvement such as Far From Home, with some singing the word-for-word chorus, others the harmonising So Faaaahaaaaar, So Faaaaaahaaaaar – it was a complete and utter hoot!
Solo tunes getting an airing included the infectious All the Pieces and Satellite from his first album as well as the incredible Waterfall and Bullet from last year’s Moment. The title track itself he did start during the encore right at the end until reaching a point he says he was concentrating so hard…seemingly lost the flow just stopping, ‘Ah fuck it, back to the hits and shit!’ Even though there were more of the Lev’s classics than his quality solo stuff, I still found myself waking up humming along to Waterfall and Bullet the next morning as opposed to the well-received and still very much welcomed classics. Finishing the encore with Carry Me, after the dancing and the vocals we were now enticed into adding Jon’s violin parts (at first hearing them in our minds). This, we seemed to somehow manage relatively well by a series of na na na na na na a na’s (even if it sounded nothing like a violin, it mattered not at all). Getting well into the song as is more of a natural automatic progression we lost it a bit towards the end. Even Mark did after a lengthy chatty interlude at the point where the song pauses then begins its epic finale with the relatively delicate beginning of that end….’When you’re standing by the roadside….’. Fear not! The crowd were there to keep on point and began it again at just the right point after the long and very entertaining reverie.
Indeed, the final song of the main set list finished prior to the stampede sound demanding an encore I glanced at my phone for the first time of the night to discover it was already 23:20. I was shocked. Couldn’t believe the time had whizzed by like a high speed bullet train from Japan to the moon via Mars, in a blinding flash! Such was the enormous amount of fun being had in Mark’s presence. The banter, the stories (like the time he met Johnny Cash and asked for a photo who wasn’t ‘familiar with your work’ after the band had just headlined Glastonbury (to one of the biggest audiences ever, no less), waking up from a nap to find the crock-of-shit X-Factor on the TV etc..), the forgotten words, the dropped D that started it all off giving way to an evening of pure brilliance. This was like a night at the pub with a friend. A very funny, talented and gifted one at that.