Carnival of Impurity
You never hear that much about New Model Army in the mainstream or underground press these days, which is surprising given that they have never stopped touring or recording throughout their 27 year history and released their 10th studio album earlier this year. They surely have one of the most loyal fan bases of any band though and always come close to selling out venues of the size of Manchester's Academy 2, which is where we find them tonight.
They get the customary roar as they take the stage and go straight into the excellent 'Vanity'. Front man Sullivan looks the same as he ever did, albeit with slightly longer hair! The wild staring eyes, the animated performance, the sheer passion with which he approaches every song is as evident today as when I first saw the band 20 years ago. As a band they have never been afraid of chopping & changing the set list and anyone here that hasn't yet got the new album might feel a little disappointed as they draw heavily from it in the opening half of the set with 'Into the Wind', 'Breathing' and 'Rivers' all following each other. As a concession to the older material they follow it with 'The Hunt' (once covered by Sepultura!), 'Get Me Out' and 'Before I Get Old' but it's at this point that I start getting annoyed by recent addition to the line up Marshall Gill's guitar playing; there are times when there is just no need for two guitars in songs and whilst it gives the whole set a rockier feel it also means a lot of the atmosphere and dynamics, that were so much a part of the trademark NMA sound, are lost. At times it's as if he has to twiddle about with some pointless soloing just because he has nothing else to do.
More new material follows with 'One of the Chosen', 'High' and 'Wired', which is countered by great renditions of 'Purity' and 'Wonderful Way to Go'. The attempts at reworking some of the older material just isn't working for me though and what should have been a glorious 'Master Race' becomes rather repressed although to see the whole crowd shouting out the chorus is still quite something. The highlight of the whole set comes with the double salvo of 'Vagabonds' and '225' from their 1989 'Thunder & Consolation' album and although they finish with 'No Rest' it's another reworked version and it just doesn't have the dark, brooding feel that it used to have and is something of a disappointment. Once again there's nothing played from the first album and most of the old staple classics are missing, there's no 'Green & Grey', '51st State' or 'Vengeance' for example.
New Model Army are still unlike anyone else and they still have plenty to offer and still manage to write some great songs but recent albums haven't quite been up to scratch and once again they don't play anything from the one that was ('Eight'). They know more than anyone that you have to change and adapt to survive and they've done it constantly over the last twenty odd years but sometimes it's not always for the better and I've seen far better live shows from them than tonight.