The Empress Ballroom holds a special place in folk-punk-rockers Levellers’ hearts, for it was at the iconic venue they closed the Total Chaos tour in February 1996 - with a show recorded for live video release Headlights, White Lines, Black Tar Rivers (Best Live).
The band returns to the ballroom tomorrow to close the week-long Beautiful Nights tour, bringing the spirit of their Devon-set summer festival Beautiful Days to a series of venues, with Ruts DC and Dreadzone also on the bill.
“We’ve done this before but only once every five or six years - it’s kind of bringing the festival vibe indoors,” bass player Jeremy Cunningham said.
“Last year we did quite a big, long greatest hits tour and these are the last shows for that really - next year we’ll have a new album out and go on the road again.”
Tomorrow night’s gig is their first return to the Empress since that 1995 date, and when selecting just a handful of venues for the Beautiful Nights tour the choice came easily.
Jeremy said: “We all remember filming the concert video there, because it looked so good.
“And coming back, when we decided to do just five places all a bit bigger than we normally play, and with a couple of other bands, the Empress Ballroom sprang immediately to mind.
“We know it’s a great crowd; they know it’s a great place and they rise to the occasion and hopefully we will again too.”
Twenty years on, did the band expect to still be filling auditoriums?
“No,” Jeremy said. “We didn’t look that far ahead, especially in those days, we were glad people were coming to see us.
“When you start to get big, it’s like being at the centre of a storm; it’s happening but you’re not aware of it.
“You would like to think we’ve learned in that tome but we still do stupid things.
“We are older and have calmed down a bit, but we get on and like going out meeting people after the shows - we don’t isolate ourselves from the people who come to see us, you’ll find us in the bar afterwards.”
* Levellers, tomorrow, Empress Ballroom, Winter Gardens.