Its been a good year for Justin Sullivan and his New Model Army. They’ve managed to capture the essence of what the band are all about in 2019 on the record ‘From Here’ and are playing to packed venues right across Europe promoting that very same record. Now I’ve seen the band live many times from festivals to small clubs and most venues in between but tonight I was really looking forward to what kind of set they were going to deliver.
On entering the venue I was reminded of my first foray as a young man into the belly of the beast that was a New Model Army show back in the early to mid ’80s, they rode the crest of a wave in the mid ’80s and dented the charts and it was where tonight began as the band appeared out of the clouds of smoke on stage to head straight into ‘No Rest’ which signalled some older men to start flinging themselves around the pit like time had stood still (something they might regret come the morning) . It was without pause we headed straight into the new record from there with the epic ‘Never Arriving’ that seemed like the perfect soundtrack as the wafts of dry ice cleared and the stage bathed in red the band’s silhouettes cast large on the backdrop as the opening new track from ‘From Here’ was received like a prodigal son.
With an immense back catalogue its always a treat to see what they will perform live as they smatter the set with “singles” it’s not nessasseraly the singles that are crowd favourites anyway. The NMA faithful are a rabid bunch who seem to love all the songs equally but deep down they’re probably like me and wish now and again that they’ll turn up to hear a run-through of all the singles in order of release followed by the best of the rest. Something that made me smile towards the end of the set when Justin announced that the band were quickly approaching their 40th anniversary and he might be persuaded to do a tour with that in mind but I’m not convinced and smiling as he said it he wasn’t even convincing himself, but we can certainly hope for it.
I digress. The new album is well represented with no less than eight songs being played. The band are a well-oiled machine and the songs are performed with much passion. Ceri Monger didn’t stop and his role is such an important part of the band as half of the rhythm section that really drives the sound on the more uptempo numbers something Justin has maintained throughout the bands existance and something thats such a big part of the sound.
We were treated to a blistering run through ’51st State’ which seems like it could have been written yesterday such is the stance at Westminster these days anyway I’ll try and keep politics out of this much like Sullivan did except to use his place to plead with the audience to do anything but vote Tory which went down well in south Wales even in these messed up times. New Model Army fans still know what’s right and wrong.
To put together a fluid setlist must be a tough call for Justin but we got ‘Believe It’ from ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’ then to follow it up with the excellent new track ‘Where I Am’ was excellent then to dip back into ‘Eight’ for a run through ‘Wipeout’ wasn’t something I was expecting. The balance of the set was something that came across really well ‘winter’ was appropriate and ‘State Radio’ gave the pit a second wind. then surprisingly we dipped back into ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’ for a couple more as we headed for the encore.
I was hoping for a couple of choice picks and I kept my fingers crossed for maybe ‘White Coats’ and ‘Stupid Questions’ or maybe some ‘Vengence’ but alas I got none. However, I did get a run-through a pretty impressive ‘125 mph’ so at least there was a few off ‘Thunder And Consolation’ as ‘Bodmin Pill’ brought the encore to an end but there was a second encore from a really vocal and appreciative crowd who called the band back for the oldest track in the set ‘Betcha’ to play out as we finally made our way out into the cold evening having been treated to an impressive set from one of the UK’s best alternative and still relevant live bands. Tonight the New Model Army were inspiring and uplifting and I can’t wait to do it all again next year after all a promise is a promise, Justin. See you down the front.