Level 42 follow the lure of the Sirens to Portsmouth Guildhall

Level 42
Level 42
David Cassidy pictured in 2008. Picture: PA

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Level 42 have had a busy 2016 already, but with a 20-date UK tour having started on Monday, they’re not about to rest up just yet.

The day before frontman Mark King spoke with WOW247, the band had just flown back from a jaunt to the Americas.

‘We played in Curacao at the North Sea Jazz festival, from there we went up to Miami, then down to Santiago, Chile, then we hopped across to Buenos Aires in Argentina and came home via Sao Paulo, Brazil. I think we did about 17,000 miles this past week.

‘It’s been a fantastic year for the band,’ says the singer and bass player, ‘so many festivals, so much work on. It just seems to be an upward swing over the last three/four years.’

Throughout the ’80s, powered by Mark’s distinctive funky bass, the band racked up the hits, including Something About You, Lessons in Love and Running in the Family. They split in 1996, but reunited five years later, and as Mark says, recent years have been good for the group.

Famously hailing from the Isle of Wight – Mark still lives near Sandown – their upcoming Portsmouth Guildhall gig will be the closest they come to a hometown show.

We can go out and do the jazz festivals and hop from that to pop and rock festivals, We cross a lot of boundaries

Mark King

‘Portsmouth Guildhall is such an historic old haunt for Level 42 and about the nearest we get to a home gig.

‘People like to have a grizzle that we don’t get to play over here on the island, but there aren’t really any suitable venues over here.’

And he still loves the island.

‘I sort of bounce between here and my place in London, it’s great to have the best of both worlds. It suits me down to the ground.

‘It’s a beautiful place – and I’m proud to be an islander.

‘I did leave when I was 19 – I packed all my stuff into a van and headed off to the big city, to make a career.

‘I had no qualifications. When you see all these GCSE and A-level results coming in and you see these poor kids despairing because they haven’t got the grades they want, I had the urge to say ‘‘university isn’t for everyone, there’s that big old school of life and that’s how I did it’’.’

Which brings us rather neatly to the comments by Ofsted chairman David Hoare about the island being an ‘inbred, poor, white ghetto.’

Comments that ultimately cost Hoare his job.

Mark laughs when it’s mentioned: ‘You know what, I thought it was quite good, because it highlighted a problem that does exist and it’s got people talking about it – but the way he put it was a bit crass.’

The new tour is ostensibly to plug their latest EP, Sirens II, but Mark knows what their audience wants.

‘It’s been a real pleasure for me seeing so many young faces in the audiences over the years. It’s like when people question whether the band is relevant – it’s relevant from the point of view of if you want to see some guys mastering their instruments, in terms of the musicality of the band that’s involved, it’s right up there.

‘And that’s why we can go out and do the jazz festivals and hop from that to pop and rock festivals, We cross a lot of boundaries.’

The band are also keen not just to coast on past glories.

‘The hardcore fans want that new stuff too, as much as they love the evergreen stuff, they want to be turned on, which is why we come up with stuff like Sirens.

‘But there’s not the same pressure on me to come up with the hit records as back in the early ’80s.

‘I want to come up with something that I like and I think the fans will like, and it’s been working so far.’

Portsmouth Guildhall

Tuesday, October 18

portsmouthguildhall.org.uk