at Symphony Hall * * * *
Review by Richard McComb
There is no point mincing words: you are not going to go to a Level 42 concert if you don't like them.
That said, the crowd of 40-plus somethings inside Symphony Hall had a ball as one of the stalwart bands of the 80s took a soft-shoe shuffle through their repertoire of hits.
The firmly middle-of-the-road pop sensibilities of some of the band's most well-known songs – Running In The Family and The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up), both of which were delivered with gusto – has always masked the groovier jazz-funk sound of Level 42's fledgling output. But for devotees of the earlier compositions, there were a few fleeting glimpses, including Mike Lindup's vocal lead on the Earth, Wind & Fire-inspired Starchild.
Keyboard player Lindup has joined bassist and lead singer Mark King – the only other surviving member of the original band – on the latest tour. Lindup's reappearance after a 12-year absence added to the nostalgia-fest of the evening. As King attacked his instrument with trademark ferocity, it was, briefly, time to rewind to the early 80s as Lindup bopped and rocked alongside what remains the meanest, funkiest thumb in the bass business.
With the Gould brothers having long since departed the touring set-up (Boon Gould plays the guitar and takes co-writing credits on the band's new album Retroglide), King has recruited some high-energy replacements. Gary Husband, Lyndon Connah, Nathan King and Sean Freeman gave a polished backdrop for the sound that sold 30 million albums worldwide.
The night featured a few numbers from the new album – the first from the band for a decade – the title of which hints at the direction King now envisages. Dive Into The Sun and Sleep Talking are solid white funk work-outs.
Level 42 were always at their best as a live band and Hot Water and Lessons in Love showcased the benefits of their raw immediacy. Why King chose to close with The Chinese Way, one of the group's more flacid middle-era hits, is a mystery but when the man slaps that bass you can forgive him anything.