It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to a gig in Blackwood, and for yours truly more is the shame with it being a simple 20minute drive away. The last band I caught over there were the Meat Puppets doing their first ever Welsh gig at the short lived Velvet Coalmine Festivals.


At the time I was stunned that more bands aren’t booked in and it becomes part of a natural gig itinery, being probably the best middle sized venue within a 30mile radius. The sound system is immense, the lay out spot on and access is so easy, makes you wonder who is actually doing the booking it could be a real gem and reignite the valleys music scene.


But on to tonight, opening up the show a couple of acoustic acts and first up Maelor Hughes a new artist for me, and to be fair a real surprise. When it comes to acoustica, I like it to grab my attention, to be a bit different, and the voice has to hold you and become the primary instrument, there’s nowhere to hide in this setting. Maelor Hughes certainly has that, the voice weaves around the guitar, each, taking its turn and the songwriting and lyrics of a travelling musician show real depths and understanding of the lifestyle and sacrifices to be made. Tracks like Morning Sun, Lullabies and Cards dealt stood out for me in a set with each song as strong as the next.


Now I have to say I’m beginning to think that the shall we say “not” regular gig goers are really beginning to piss me off at gigs, especially the ones that talk over an artist on stage, it’s even worse when as the music rises in depth and intensity they take it as a given to speak louder, “Really sorry you idiot if the music is getting in the way of your nite out!!!!!”


Second up a guy I caught on the last Levellers tour, Sean McGowan, bringing a very different style of acoustic performance, now if I was a rap fan and down with the kids I’d even say vocally there’s a lot in line with “Spitting bars” there’s an edge vocally, but a real sense of fun and identity and again doing something really different with the genre.


The crowd in fairness were there for both opening acts and with it being a sell out you could feel the atmosphere rise before the main act hit the stage and the Levellers were on fire tonight, opening up with the double shot of Liberty Song and Fifteen Years, they proceeded to raise the roof and bring the party, and the crowd responded accordingly. There was no let up through the night the sweat was dripping down the walls and it just got hotter and hotter as the night moved on. Levelling the land was well represented but there was also other snapshots of a band taken throughout their career, stand outs for me had to be the opener’s alongside stunning versions of The Game, Cholera Well, Riverflow, and a stunning One Way, absolutely one of those gigs where time flew and before you knew it we were at the end of the set, coming back with a jaw dropping encore of Another Mans cause, Carry me and the nights closer Beautiful Day, you couldn’t really have asked for more. Going back to where I started this review I just don’t get why this venue isn’t used more often there are so many bands out there who would really benefit from such a fantastic sound system and the experience of playing in this size venue.

Author: Nev Brooks