Is there a way to describe what I saw and heard at G Live in Guildford on 25th of October? Maybe as the best live show I’ve seen in 10 years. It was the night of Level 42 special treats for the fans and loving audience. I have been their huge fan since I was a child and I am very familiar with their work. I was only five years old when they released their first album in 1981. But when you are raised by a father who was a jazz musician and a brother who had at that time already started playing drums, you can really feel music in your blood.
It is not easy to write a review for such a sublime and divine performance of the seven fantastic musicians who played some of the Level 42’s greatest hits for us.
They started with “If You Were Mine” from Guaranteed album and I was diligently taking their pictures. I wish I could have been closer to the stage at that moment. However, I was only allowed to shoot from the back of the venue. I wish I could have been closer to those music geniuses.
Level 42’s music has always been a great inspiration in my life and I am sure I am not speaking only for myself. Whoever loves jazz and funk could not have escaped having passion for this band, I am more than sure of it. You really have to understand the knowledge, skills, hard work, persistence, great talent and devotion a musician has to put into his art to be a jazz musician. And although not all their material leans towards jazz and funk, and while some of the tracks go more into pop or rock direction, this night, on the stage, I could hear so much jazz and funk that filled my heart with the utmost joy and thrill.
Accompanied by saxophone, trumpet and trombone, they certainly sounded more jazzy. The brass section really added more volume to the sound than what you are used to when listening to the records. I was thrilled to hear “Micro-kid” as the second song: it is the ultimate dance track. Next they played “Running in the Family” from the same title album released in 1987. Even if someone in the public wasn’t their fan, I don’t think there was a single person who wasn’t familiar with that one. A classic. The performance of “Work Machine” was again something that I liked very much on this live show. It was the song that showed their devotion to jazz and funk. Although I wanted to hear more up tempo tracks, they played the slower “Overtime” next, just before they decided to strike us with one more all-time hit, “Children Say”. I always loved hearing Mike’s vocal and this was the song that I treasured so much because I could enjoy listening to his distinguishing and peculiar voice singing the refrain. I was observing the crowd during the song and it seemed to be blown away, just like me. They decided to play one slower song before shifting to faster numbers again. Thus, the next one was “It’s Over”. I suppose that that song has always had a great emotional impact on me because I literally burst into tears while I was listening to it. I was sure that it couldn’t be more emotional than that and I was right. The performance was as touching as the song itself.
After “Forever Now”, which again sounded more jazzy in live version, I totally got carried away when I heard the first tacts of “The Sun Goes Down (Living it Up)”. And who can resist that funk? I think I was the craziest dancer in the venue and I really felt like “I will live for the groove ’till the sun goes down “. I don’t think there was a single soul there who was not in love with Mark’s bass playing and the crazy funk groove. And as the song was playing, yes, I didn’t have a husband any more because the song said “I’m married to the beat”, and so I was. The next one was the song everyone sang along to. It was “Guaranteed”, another timeless hit that sounded more pop-rock than the rest of the songs they had chosen for that show. However, that was not the case with “Starchild” from their Level 42 album, returning again to more jazzy and funky direction. We could hear a special introduction to “Something About You” before the first few recognizable notes. But we undoubtedly knew that the hit was the next one. And how to follow it but with “Lessons in Love”? The first song seemed just to transfer into the second and Level 42 didn’t have any intention of giving us any rest.
After a very jazzy performance of “Build Myself A Rocket” during which we could enjoy the brass section to the fullest, I was wondering how they were going to keep it up. But they did by playing “Hot Water” next. I was once again overwhelmed by the brass trio at the beginning of the song and submitted myself to the funk of the bass and drum rhythm. We knew the show came to the end, but after such a loud applause and some really loud shouts for more, they came back for the encore. Mark decided to give his band a little rest so he came to the stage alone and played an exceptional bass solo for a couple of minutes. Do I need to mention that he is one of my favourite bass players? The crowd was ecstatic and I was thinking “How can he do that?” Then sax, trumpet and trombone joined in to follow Mark’s improvisation that led to performing “Love Games”. Such masterpiece recorded in 1981 is still a masterpiece in 2016 and their timeless hits sound so fresh even today. Exceptional music is exceptional music, the music without expiration date, the music that can never go out of style. Hearing such a band today feels as alive as it was back in the 80s or 90s. They closed with “Sunbed Song” from Forever Now and I was left with so many emotions, thoughts and impressions… mesmerised, hypnotised and enriched by one of the best live shows’ experiences. I came home thinking what it takes to make a show such as that one. Flawless and immaculate music performance. Nothing less. Maybe much more that I can ever express. You really need to experience Level 42 live for yourself because no words can describe the sound, the beat, the preciseness, the ultimate music performance you could ever expect on stage.
1. If you were mine (Guaranteed 1991), 2. Micro-kid (Standing in the Light 1983), 3. Running in the Family (Running in the Family 1987), 4. Work Machine (World Machine 1985), 5. Overtime (Guaranteed 1991), 6. Children Say (Running in the Family 1987), 7. It’s Over (Running in the Family 1987), 8. Forever Now (Forever Now 1994), 9. The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) (Standing in the Light 1983), 10. Guaranteed (Guaranteed 1991), 11. Starchild (Level 42 1981), 12. Something About You (World Machine 1985), 13. Lessons In Love (Running in the Family 1987), 14. Build Myself a Rocket (Sirens 2013), 15. Hot Water (True Colours 1984) encore: Bass Solo, 16. Love Games (Level 42 1981), 17. Sunbed Song (Forever Now 1994)