LEVEL 42: ‘Sirens Tour Live’ (Membran)

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Even when they were riding high in the UK charts back in their halcyon days during the 1980s, Level 42 were never perceived as the epitome of cool. Jazz-funkateers with a pop sensibility, the Isle Of Wight-originating quartet were seemingly one of those perplexing bands that sold lots of records though, strangely, nobody really claimed to like them that much. They were, perhaps, a guilty pleasure for many people, who didn’t want to admit their affection for a band that didn’t have any poster boys in its ranks but, more importantly, possessed a whole heap of talent and managed to amass a jaw-dropping twenty-nine UK hit singles. Thirty years or so on from those times,  bands that were supposed to be cooler – like Wham, Haircut 100, and Culture Club – have long bitten the dust but Level 42 continue to endure and pack arenas around the world. Their music has enjoyed a remarkable longevity, which to my mind is no surprise – not only were they first class musicians but they also knew how to craft some jolly good songs.

Today in 2016, the original classic quartet lineup is long gone but its two core members and the group’s principal songwriters, bassist/singer Mark King, and keyboardist/vocalist, Mike Lindup, remain. They are augmented on this new double live album recorded at the Indigo O2 Arena last September by six more musicians, including a horn section. Mark King (aka ‘Thunder Thumbs’) still plays a mean bass, as evidenced on two of the set’s more recent tunes, ‘Mind On You,’ and ‘My Independence Day’ (both from 2013’s ‘Sirens’ album), which are driven by churning jazz-funk grooves that really sizzle. But it’s the old classics that the crowd have really come to hear and cheer, and here with this performance, Level 42 don’t disappoint; their nineteen-song show ranges from early numbers like ‘Starchild’  and key album cuts (‘Kansas City Milkman’) to imperishable classic  hits such as’ ‘Lessons In Love,’ ‘Leaving Me Now,’ ‘Hot Water,’ and ‘The Chinese Way.’ For those that want to see the show as well as hear it,  this package includes a DVD of the complete performance. It’s a must-have for any fan, then, proving that Level 42 can still cut it live. No wonder they’re still a top in-concert attraction.

(CW) 3/5