A sonic trip through the decades

Where were you the past 40 years? How many things changed in your life while New Model Army were releasing 20 albums? Which of these albums hit a nerve? How many of their gigs have you attended over the years? What does their 40th anniversary mean to you? How did you experience the streaming of this gig last year during lockdown? No matter what the answers to these questions are, I am sure that you have found (or are planning to) your place in the audience at one of the gigs celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and next.

Justin Sullivan live photoWe attended their second London gig at the Roundhouse and, as we were getting out of Camden high street (deserted but for the rest of the black dressed crowd), we had only one thought in mind: if this gig were a message then it would say “Go out and fight the sickness of this world in any form or shape you encounter it“.

Last year, I was jumping up and down a bed, trying to contain my screams as I was listening to ‘Vengeance‘ through the speakers in the basement flat, watching the band deliver their songs through a screen. A surreal experience, but one that I shall always remember for many reasons. I didn’t think I would be able to attend this in person and I certainly didn’t think that New Model Army would offer a gig this year. Nonetheless, there we all were, seeing this gig materialise, celebrating their 40 years with them and making sure to show them that we shall be there for their next big one.

Generous as usual, Justin, Martin, Dean, Ceri, Mark and Ed offered us stories of addiction, revolution, love,Justin Sullivan NMA vindictiveness and wickedness. The three hours that passed felt like one and the whole gig gave the impression of being back among friends after such a long time. The setlist covered most of the band’s discography including some B-sides and less familiar songs. Starting with ‘Bittersweet‘ – a song that first appeared on a 1983 7” called  ‘Bittersweet’, the setlist included songs from ‘The Ghost of Cain’, ‘Impurity’, ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, ‘Between Wine& Blood’, ‘Vengeance’, ‘Nobody Else’, ‘Strange Brotherhood’, ‘From Here’, ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’, ‘Thunder And Ceri Monger live photoConsolation’, ‘High’, ‘Living In The Rose’, ‘Winter’, ‘Between Dog& Wolf’, ‘Eight’, ‘New Model Army’ and ‘Living In The Rose’. The gig was divided into two parts, building up the energy as it went along, and the first half finished with ‘Never Arriving‘, ‘Frightened‘ and ‘Bad Old World‘. Not much happened during this first half, Justin did not talk to us much and everybody seemed to be anticipating more.


Of course they want us divided…it suits their purpose ” (Justin Sullivan)

After a 20 minute break, the second part kicked off with ‘Better Than Them‘, ‘Higher Wall‘ and ‘Turn Away‘ and the audience was now triggered and ready to give back the energy coming from the stage, multiplied tenfold. It was right after the end of ‘Better Than Them‘ when Justin said that the system wants us divided but ‘…we’re better than them…’. This was the part of ‘Born Feral‘, ‘Here Comes The War‘, ‘No Rest‘, ‘Purity‘, ‘Get Me Out‘ and somewhere in between these timeless songs Justin said

A lot of people talk about going back to normal, before all this shit happened. But remember people, things were not that good before all this shit, so let’s hope things get better than before…” (Justin Sullivan)

Who didn’t agree with this statement right there and then? Who didn’t feel like they were being addressed by a long-time friend who was thinking the same things, only was quicker to say them out loud? I certainly did. But never mind the shit – by now some ecstatic fans were on others’ shoulders, others jumped around feeling violently happy, and all of us shared the energy emanating from the stage.

Every trip needs a stop along an ethereal path

Justin, at times witty and at times teasingly seductive, was delivering the songs with the confidence and wisdom that Michael Dean live photocomes from the tunes having become part of his whole being. Ceri, Michael, Dean, Ed and Mark were playing alongside him with the ease that comes of having become one with every note and every verse of every song. While the communication on stage and with us was less direct during the first half, during the second part of the gig things became cosier.

Marry The Sea‘ which saw Ed Alleyne-Johnson take to the stage for the first time, sent shivers down everyone’s spine, cloaking Roundhouse in a dreamy, ethereal sonic veil that only a great storyteller can dare to conjure during an otherwise heavy rock & bluegrass gig. Things got heated in the audience. Justin welcomed Mark Feltham toMark Feltham New Model Army 2021 the stage for ‘Waiting‘ and, magically the walls around us felt less enclosing. From this moment onwards, both the harmonica and the violin became the protagonists of the performance, and the energy in the audience reached new heights.

“On the one hand we have the libertarians, the righteous ones who believe that they should absolutely do what they want because it is their right et and on the other hand we have the purists – most of us try to exist somewhere in the middle. This is probably the most honest song we ever wrote” (Justin Sullivan)

That was the introduction to ‘Purity‘, the lyrics of which include this verse:

“Revolution for ever, succession of the seasons
Within the blood of Nature, all raised to rot and die
This purity is a lie”.

Dean White New Model Army

The front rows were on fire, some standing on others’ shoulders, feeling every note, living every verse. The band soaked up this energy, it travelled in waves and filled the space. ‘Vagabonds‘ closed the second part before one of the best encores they could have offered us: ‘Ballad‘, ‘Poison Street‘ and ‘I Love The World‘ guided our spirits for the hours and days that followed the gig.

New Model Army is a living creature, born 40 years ago, that has grown through the phases of a human being’s development. It has transcended the definition of a mere band and is now a part of all of us, part of our lives and part of our time. They inspire – and still awake our fighting spirit in a profound way. And that is something we value immensely!

Happy anniversary NMA, we will make sure to be there for your 50th, your 60th


You can see more photos from this gig here.

Blaue Rosen box

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