The gig was excellent: a long set, and chock-full of old favourites. It was certainly interesting to hear the band in acoustic mode -- they've always had a folk-rock style, but with Jon's fiddle and Simon's mandolin coming through clearly, the emphasis was firmly on the 'folk'. Slower songs like "Julie" and "Another Man's Cause" gained intensity from the intimate venue and cut-down lineup, and if the faster and more furious songs like "Riverflow", "Dirty Davey" and "Fifteen Years" lost any power it was more than compensated for by the audience, shouting along as though their lives depended on it. There were times when it seemed that the venue was perhaps a little too intimate, as the heckling threatened to get out of hand (Simon and Jon did eventually comply with the shouts of "get your shirt off!", though I suspect this was more to do with the stifling heat of the venue...), but the feeling of a real interaction between band and audience always makes for a more highly-charged atmosphere and a more energetic performance, and this was no exception.
I'm afraid the spectacle of so many hands and voices raised in perfectly conforming unison at the words "There's only one way of life and that's your own" never fails to amuse me, much though I love the song; but there was something much more moving about hearing the lyrics "the words that you heard when you were young will always stay, the ones that always stay make the world go away" (from "The Road") -- and realising that those words have stayed in the back of my mind since my teenage self was first knocked sideways by Levelling the Land back in the early 90s, and that this was a band who still had the power to "make the world go away" for me (and countless others, if the audience's reactions were anything to go by), even if only "for a moment".
This was also my first encounter with the Boat Race as a venue. So, the verdict: it's cramped, smoky, dark and dingy, and the acoustics aren't great. In other words, it's exactly what the discerning indie kid wants. :-) My only real gripe was the beer -- okay, so the eminently drinkable Milton Pegasus came on halfway through the evening (at the very reasonable price of £2.20 a pint), but only after I'd already shelled out for two pints of watery Guinness at a much less reasonable £2.70 a pint.
All in all, a good evening. It was a shame hoiho couldn't be there, particularly since I wouldn't even have known about the gig if he hadn't passed on the information from Mary Pegg (who was there, of course, conspicuous in the ever-present hat); but it would have been a bit far to come from Scotland for a gig. I hope sion_a enjoyed the evening, despite getting angry about idiots in the audience (and getting frustrated about not being able to pogo in time with other people!); and it was a nice surprise to see davefish and keris there.
Sorry again to marnameow for not making it to the party, but to be honest I think bouncing up and down in the dark (and getting back in touch with my inner teenager) for a couple of hours was probably just what I needed; I feel tired now, still a bit shaky, but a lot more together than I did a couple of days ago. Almost ready to face the coming week.