Level 42 – Colston Hall, October 2010.


So… Level 42. Who are they, I hear you say. Well quite. I was first introduced to this band in my first year of University, as my housemate was somewhat in love with 80s music (yes, really). This blends into a mixture of good and bad, as her choices ranged from Talking Heads to Duran Duran – and our many nights of working together with caffeinated beverages led to us building suitable playlists for such times. Level 42 emerged on such lists, and lo, Mark King and his bass wound its way into my musical collection.

Now, that’s not to say I love them – really no – but I appreciate their music certainly. Having said that, I’m not sure how influential they are or were, as not many people speak of them, and the bass-influenced music does somewhat pigeon-hole them. So would a band find influence unless they loved the bass that much? Slap-bass too, it is, and rather accomplished it is too.

So, there we were, on a very cold October evening, waiting at Colston Hall, for Level 42’s Bristol performance of their 30th Anniversay tour. I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person there who actually wanted to be there. You sense some of the younger audience members had been persuaded to attend by their parents, in a “I know you listen to absolute drivel, like most young people nowadays, so this is the kind of music your parents – who you know have fantastic taste – used to listen to. Listen and learn kids” sort of way. Now sometimes older audiences members can be ok – at least they don’t (usually) throw up or dress like they’re on the beach. But we did happen to be sat next to moodiest, grumpiest couple you have EVER laid eyes on. I had thoughts that the bloke was so dull because he hadn’t got any in 5 years because he’s (much prettier) bird had been having an affair with the milkman. They seemed like the sort of couple who discussed the weather at supper time, and realised they didn’t have anything in common anymore – so they decided to go to a Level 42 concert as they used to enjoy them when they were younger. Maybe it would respark something.

Oh how wrong they were.

Zoe and I, however, had a whale of a time. The support band (Deep MO) seemed pretty good really – going back to my favourite phrase with generic music, it was “accomplished, not particularly memorable, middle of the road”. It would have been good background music in a New York club or something. It did seemed alright at the time, but then Level 42 came on. And blew them out of the water. I was most impressed! They had a huge amount of energy (surprising for 50 year olds!) and played exactly what a band should play on a 30th Anniversary tour – all the old classics. Their set list included ‘Running In The Family’, ‘Lessons In Love’, ‘Hot Water’, ’43’ and encored with ‘The Chinese Way’. Now I haven’t explored Level 42 as much as I should have to go to one of their gigs, but I still had a very good time. I did enjoy the ones I knew more than the others – as is usually the way – but Mark King made it a very enjoyable evening. I found a huge division in the crowd – either they were fusty middle aged boring tossers who didn’t even clap at the end of each song, or they were getting up and having a party. I liked these people! I quite wanted to join in, but I think we were in the more reserved side of the audience. That said, everyone was standing by the end, so for a good portion of the gig, Level 42 had a standing ovation. Which is quite impressive for oldies. I was also impressed with Mark King’s on-stage banter, and the fact that he stayed on stage for a while after the music ended, shaking hands with the crowd and talking to the adoring fans.

Highlights and lowlights –

Low – I hate drum solos, and there were two in this gig.
High – They played ‘Running In The Family’
Low – Half of the very dull audience!
High – The fact you could hear every component of the band. All of it! The sound was fantastic.
Low – Not knowing Level 42’s entire backcatalogue.
High – Mark King’s light-up bass.
Low – The fact that Mark King had two light-up basses.
High – The backdrop. They had all the album artwork on there, and the words ‘Level 42’ lighting up.

It was a most enjoyable evening, I would recommend seeing them!

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One Response

  1. I’m 18 and I adore Level 42 with all my heart! So there ARE some teenage people out there who love them! There are only a few of us I admit but we do exist! 🙂

    They’ve been my favourite band for about three years now. I saw them live for the first time on the 2010 tour – I went on the 3rd October to Manchester Apollo. They were so tight as a band and it was as if I was experiencing live music for the first time. Their music is so addictive. It’s endless visceral grooves and funky rhythms. As a bassist and a drummer myself, Mark King is my biggest influence and inspiration.

    It was the best night of my life.That was until about two and a half weeks ago when I went to Ronnie Scott’s in London for my 18th birthday to see Mark King & Friends perform. It was completely brilliant and perfect! I even met Mark himself which was a dream come true because he’s my hero!

    I’ve just recently bought my ticket for the 2012 tour! I can’t wait! 🙂

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