Unlike the previous night when the rain poured down on the Hacienda Classical gig, today was a hot summer afternoon for the third in the series of Beautiful Day Out concerts at the Castlefield Bowl.
The first band I caught were South London’s electro dub outfit Dreadzone who’s pulsating beats soon had the crowd dancing party style in the afternoon sunshine even being brought back for an encore.
Billy Bragg was next up and in the present political climate there was plenty for the foremost English protest singer/songwriter to talk about. He opened up with Bob Dylan’s, The Times They Are A Changing, with a subtle change to the lyrics to fit the current situation. He then played some of his greatest songs all of which are as relevant today as when they were first written, Between The Wars, Milk Of Human Kindness, Sexuality and a great crowd sing-along with Power In The Union. He finished the set with New England, taken into the charts by the late Kirsty MacColl and a great crowd pleaser.
After a short break, co-headliners The Waterboys took to the stage with a set which covered most of their career but favouring their more rockier songs rather than the folksier output. Opening with Still A Freak from Modern Blues the band went straight into Medicine Bow from the This Is The Sea album. A Boy Called Johnny was next before we got a bit of respite with the folksy We Will Not Be Lovers followed up with the traditional Raggle Taggle Gypsy. A Waterboys set would not be complete without The Whole Of The Moon and Mike Scott duly delivered before finishing off with the wonderful Fisherman’s Blues to a delighted crowd.
As the sun finally sank behind behind the stage, the crowd began to swell in expectation of the imminent arrival of Brighton’s punk folk rebels The Levellers. As the band walked on stage cannons at either side exploded showering the crowd in streamers and the band launched straight into One Way, the opening track from the legendary Levelling The Land album now over 25 years old. The whole set was a tribute to this album with it being played in its entirety along with a selection of other popular tracks from The Levellers long history. The crowd, many who had clearly grown up with the bands anarchic lifestyle went absolutely wild with a few crowd surfers making it into the pit.
As with Billy Bragg, The Levellers are probably as relevant today as they have ever been and they remain part of the authentic counter-culture in today’s society having made travellers music mainstream.
Politics aside this was a cracking gig with both the audience and band having a great time and the final song of the night couldn’t some it up better it really was A Beautiful Day.