New Model Army Crush the Capital
It may have been re-scheduled, but New Model Army’s Tour sold out Edinburgh
New Model Army’s 40th Anniversary Tour had been re-scheduled, and some dates were cancelled but they have soldiered on much to the relief of their hard core following. The band still inspire their fans to travel far and wide and “the family” religiously follow them up and down the country wherever they play. Scotland was fortunate to have the band play for over 2 hours in Glasgow late November and they arrived in Edinburgh to find the venue was sold out. It was also an early show, so the crowd wasted no time packing themselves into the hot dark sweat box that is La Belle Angel.
There was a varied selection of support bands on the tour and Edinburgh’s alt/post punks Twisted Nerve were a great fit. Craig Paterson is the archetypal front man. He looms large and with his shaved head and dark glasses, looked almost devoid of emotion as he wrestled with his mic stand. The band started off life as a punk band in the late 70’s and as they morphed into a goth/post punk band by the time the headlining peers were forming. Hard hitting drums, edgy bass and some eclectic guitar work gave Craig Paterson the perfect platform to perform. Like their counterparts for the evening, Twisted Nerve had seen a few changes in line up through the years, but they have cemented their line up and they sounded immaculate. Pure 80’s indulgence as the band played material from their early back catalogue which has been recently re-released. Mid-set highlight for me was “Séance” and the band ended on a high playing “When I’m Alone” and their epic “5 Minutes of Fame”. There’s a growing interest in Dark Post-Punk music and Twisted Nerve really fit the bill. They’ve honed their craft and are a fantastic addition to any festival celebrating the genre.
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With the same line up as Glasgow (Minus special guest Ed Alleyne Johnson) New Model Army breezed onto the stage in Edinburgh in near darkness. The cosmetic smoke added to the atmosphere as Justin Sullivan strapped on his well-worn acoustic. He had his back to the audience and waited for Drummer Michael Dean to kick off the set. There was a momentary pause then the heavy toms indicated the start of “End of Days”. The 2019 album “From Here” would feature heavily through-out the night. Sullivan shouts “OK?”, as he checks the crowd are with him before multi-instrumentalist Dean White, who’s now moved onto keyboards starts the second song. There was a big cheer as the recognisable chords of “The Charge” were heard. White and Sullivan both adorned with Gibson SG’s were in full flow as Ceri Monger drove the song with his signature bass sound. As Sullivan final words “The Brave Thousand” hung in the air and signified the end of the song, White’s edgy guitar intro to “Lust for Power” cut the ether. Another belting standard for “the family” to mosh to in heavy numbers. There’s time for the band to take a breather and Justin took the chance to chat with the crowd and warn them of the impending random selection of songs. With such a massive back catalogue to choose from, there’s always going to be something for everyone. Current Affairs is always on the mind of the create powerhouse and he referenced the P&O Ferries debacle which is still raw in the hearts and minds of so many unfortunate workers and their families, “1984” is dedicated to them and must have surprised even the most ardent fan as the early B side got a rare live outing. The tight twin guitar work was an indication that White, and Sullivan were in tune with each other and bode well for the entire gig. The transitions between songs were sublime at times and Sullivan’s rhythmic changes in chords were pronounced as he merged “1984” into “Never Arriving”.
The solid bass and drums were almost hypnotic and there were some inspired backing vocals from the monitor engineer that were sublimely mixed. As the night went on, the variety of songs kept the crowd guessing and there were a few puzzled looks as the band bounced between B sides and classic tunes. The mid set highlight featured “Born Feral”, the subject of which has produced many similar New Model Army songs and it morphed into “Before I Get Old “and “Vanity”. Another slick transition which saw Dean White control the feedback from his Fender so tunefully. Ceri Monger nearly stole the show when he strapped on Justin’s SG and played the intro of “No Sense” before he sloped onto the triple floor toms as he supplemented the main drums and hammered the skins. It was a jaw dropping and inspirational, so energetic but he made it look effortless. Ceri hung his head over the drums and seemed lost in the moment. The heat in the venue was almost unbearable at times and you could see Monger was flicking his hair back even more than normal, definitely through necessity than vanity [sic]. The main set ended with the topical “Angry Planet”, but it wasn’t long before the band return for a much-deserved encore. The crowd had been buoyant all evening and they were reward with three more sublime songs. As Justin spoke of the bravery he had witnessed in the people of the Ukraine and those in Russia who had voiced their disapproval of their leader, the band played “Courage”. The popular penultimate song “Ballad of Bodmin Pill” always goes down well and the pure raw delivery of “Betcha” was a sight to behold as the band lost themselves at times during the song. At just over an hour, the set might have been half that of the recent special anniversary gig in Glasgow, but it matched the intensity and provided the crowd with a comprehensive show of their back catalogue. The 10-date tour will bring some closure for a lot of fans who had been looking to celebrate the bands 40th Anniversary and it has cemented the current line-up. The intensity and ferocity of the band was matched at times by the crowd but the heat in the room probably took its toll on some as it was hard to tell if the bands breath-taking performance was down to the band themselves or the lack of oxygen in the building as Justin joked about it before he finally left the stage. New Model Army still have the courage of their convictions and an audience that matches their aspirations. The desire, drive and delivery set the band apart from so many of their peers and bands half their age. The credibility and integrity is unwavering, there’s many more gigs planned, and Justin will take his acoustic out for a solo tour later this year.
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