Memorable outing from the sons of Thunder & Consolation

With no album to promote it may seem strange that NMA are playing to twice as many people tonight at Manchester Academy than when they last toured in support of their 'Eight' album. Perhaps it is a measure of the success of 'Eight', which took the distinct NMA sound onto yet another level, resulting in their strongest album for some time. For others I suspect they were moved to attend to pay tribute to ex-drummer and founding member Rob Heaton, who tragically died in November. Either way there is a surprisingly healthy crowd at the Academy tonight!

Justin Sullivan still commands the stage with consumate ease and his erratic gesticulations are carried out with the same passion he's always had. The rest of the band is tight and the sound is good but I can't help feeling there's something not quite right. It's almost as if they are too slick, one of NMA's great qualities as a three piece was their rawness and with the current expanded line-up they seem to have lost a little of that. This is further emphasised by the set list, which rather disappointingly does not offer a single track from their debut album and only a couple of tracks from the next two. More bizarre is that they don't play anything from the last album 'Eight' either!

Still, gripes aside the set is strong, with a couple of new songs receiving a good reception (most notably 'Island' and 'LS43'). There is of course a smattering of classics, 'No Rest', '51st State', 'Here Comes The War' & long time crowd pleaser 'Green & Grey'. The crowd is in fine voice and, as you'd expect with a NMA crowd, there is much standing on shoulders and waving of hands in the air. There is also, of course, time to pay tribute to Rob Heaton and the so older numbers take on slightly more significance tonight, particularly the Heaton penned 'Green & Grey'.

The anticipated encore is rapturously received and delivers 'Fate', 'Stupid Questions' and '225', all good songs but not really surprises, when it would have been good to hear something a bit special. NMA have never been afraid to do their own thing though and you have to admire them for that. Judging from the comments of the crowd as we leave it seems no-one is disappointed.