14 November 2019 (gig)
15 November 2019
New Model Army are currently touring their 15th studio album ‘From Here’ across Europe and the UK and tonight brought their eclectic blend of post punk, rock, folk, seasoned with a heavy dose of passion, to an eager London crowd.
Most who were there were used to seeing them at the Forum this time of year, which is a little bigger. So, it felt more intimate and maybe a little more frenetic, at least for those of us near the front. And of course, turn back the clock almost 40 years and this was where NMA were first plying their trade.
No surprises that the set list would be dominated by the new album, but they opened with No Rest, a classic from their early heyday and the song that got them their one and only performance on Top of The Pops back in the ‘80s - and what a song it is! The pent-up expectation from the audience exploded in a maelstrom of moshing and raised hands and from there on the energy barely let up.
As expected, there were a lot of middle-aged men whipping off their t-shirts and working up a sticky sweat as the mosh pit eddied and turned, occasionally dragging in some less willing participant who struggled to keep standing. But the crowd were kind, and if someone landed on the floor, many hands reached out and soon pulled them back to their feet.
The setlist was well balanced, and the newer songs stood equally tall alongside a varied back catalogue. The new ones may not get quite get the same reaction, but they need time to embed, they also showcase a writing style that bears a little more maturity and nuance.
Once a three piece, NMA are now a well-established five piece, albeit that Justin Sullivan is the long-standing corner stone that everything is built on. Amid the energy of songs like The Charge, 51st State and Winter, with the allegory of their lyrics certainly not lost on the audience, one moment that stood out was when Sullivan sang an acoustic version of one of their 90’s songs, Over The Wire, that paints a pertinent picture: Come evangelists of the Grand New Age proclaiming the future that they stole, condemning the things they can't control - just like the priests before; and now I can hear them call - the ghosts of the 1914-18 war. Where do all the innocents go when they're not needed? Over the wire and into the darkness … “F-ING Brexit!” Sullivan reiterates on a few occasions, and it’s a reminder that anger has fuelled the creative fire of many a NMA song over the years.
The main set ended with another ‘angry’ song, Here Comes the War, with it’s all too close to home lyrics of ‘savage times’ and the lights put out on 'the Age of Reason’. No one wanted the night to end, and even though the band return to give a three-song encore we were left wanting more.
Next year, NMA will be commemorating their 40th anniversary and there was promise of a celebration of their extensive back catalogue. Although, there is that restless sense from Sullivan that he would rather not linger too much on the past but push on forward, and with that the sense that more new music will come.