Level 42 roll back the years as they deliver stunning show at the Derngate
It's all about that bass - well, no, that's not strictly true...
I would imagine when most people think of Level 42, they just think of Mark King and the bass guitar - but they would be wrong, as there is so much more to this fantastic band.
And they proved it at the Derngate on Saturday night.
Don’t get me wrong, King is very much the main man, the front man, the driving force - and his bass playing is absolutely fantastic. But he is just one cog in a high quality machine.
Level 42 stopped off in Northampton on their Eternity tour, and the fans were treated to more than 90 minutes of high class music, with the band covering their near 40 years in the business.
There were plenty of hits - and there are a lot to pick from - which went down a storm, but there were plenty of little curios such as the jazz-funk of Heathrow, The Machine Stops and A Good Man In A Storm, all album tracks from the distant past that will have thrilled the hardcore Level 42 fans in the audience.
Now I wouldn’t class myself in the hardcore follower bracket, but I have been a big fan since the mid-80s, when the band were at their creative and commercial peak.
Something About You is one of my favourite songs by anybody, and it sounded sublime at the Derngate, which was transformed into a standing venue for the night.
In fact, everything sounded great.
The charismatic King was in top form in terms of his brilliant bass playing and his singing, and he loves to put on a show.
There was regular chat between songs, and he made a point of involving every section of the packed house. There was no shoe gazing here!
The other original band member, Mike Lindup, was fantastic on keys and with his singing too, and the piano solo at the end of Leaving Me Now was a thing of beauty.
Nathan King on guitar and vocals and Pete Ray Biggin, on perhaps the biggest drum set I have seen, were flawless and then there was the three-man brass/percussion/backing vocals section, who were fabulous.
This wasn’t just a gig, it was a show.
Level 42 may not be releasing new music at the moment, and they may not be selling millions of records any more, but they are clearly a band in a good place.
You can see they simply love performing live, with everybody on stage smiling and joking with each other throughout - we even got a couple of Bruno Mars-style band dance routines!
And as for the music...
Opener Running In The Family set the bar high, before King set about resurrecting some of the band’s hidden gems, but there was always a hit thrown in every couple of songs, such as The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) to keep the more casual fan happy.
Sandstorm gave King the chance to showcase one of his breathtaking and trademark bass solos before the band launched a blistering batch of tunes to close the set, starting with The Chinese Way.
An epic The Chant Has Begun was next - with a brilliant middle section that saw the whole band playing drums - and that was followed by the classic Something About You and the rollicking Heaven In My Hands from 1988.
That wrapped up the main set, but of course we were treated to an encore... and what a treat!
Love Games is one of those songs that sounds better live than on record, and it did again here.
Then we had the band’s biggest hit, Lessons In Love, before a relative new track, Build Myself A Rocket, from the 2013 EP Sirens.
To finish it all off was another tune that was simply created to be played live, the thunderous Hot Water.
It was an epic end to a fantastic night, that had started with an excellent support slot from The Blow Monkeys.
Dr Robert and his band showcased songs from their new album The Wild River, as well as dropping 80s beauties Digging Your Scene and It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way.
King thanked the band early in the Level 42 set, telling the fans ‘I insist you get value for money’.
Well, everybody at the Derngate certainly got that.
A great show. A great night. A great band.
Setlist: Running In The Family, Heathrow, The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up), The Machine Stops, Starchild, Good Man In A Storm, A Floating Life, Leaving Me Now, Sandstorm, The Chinese Way, The Chant Has Begun, Something About You, Heaven In My Hands
Encore: Love Games, Lessons In Love, Build Myself A Rocket, Hot Water