A Liberal Education

New Model Army return to the Ritz in support of new album Between Dog and Wolf and whilst it's not quite a sell out, it's pretty packed in here tonight. We've been looking forward to this one as NMA have been on something of a roll over the last few years and last time we saw them here it was one of the gigs of the year.

With only Justin Sullivan left from the original line up and with long time bass player Nelson leaving you could be forgiven for worrying that they would lose their unique appeal. Whilst Sullivan is at the helm though there is no danger of that and he has moulded the rest of the band around him, so that although the sound of the new record is a bit different, it's still very much New Model Army.

The new album has received almost universal praise and not surprisingly it dominates the set with seven of the fourteen tracks getting aired. It's a slow and understated start as they kick off with I Need More Time and although they follow it with the more up beat Today Is A Good Day, March In September, Did You Make It Safe? from the new album takes it down again, not so much in tempo but more in delivery. It's hard to put your finger on it but it's probably because the new songs have a smoother, more polished feel to them that results in a little of the edge being taken off. By contrast The Hunt, Archway Towers and Here Comes The War have lost none of their bite and mean that any doubters in the crowd are won over and it makes another new song Knieval one of the highlights of the set.

I didn't think the sound was that good tonight, there was a lot going on up on stage that you couldn't pick out in the mix. It could have soured the gig but there was one massive surprise that ensured nobody cared about that, or anything else come to that! Somebody picks out the chords to Vagabonds and Ed Alleyne-Johnson, who played violin on the original 1988 recording appears! The crowd all know who he is and a massive roar goes up as he starts the intro and completely nails it. He stays on for Purity and plays both note perfect, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. It really is like stepping back to the late 80s to hear him play along with the band again and you only had to glance around at the beaming faces to know that it made many punters nights.

The latter part of the set features a host of classics with Wonderful Way To Go, a brilliant version of Christian Militia, Lust For Power and Get Me Out in quick succession. It was an obvious finale and it had to happen but it didn't stop the hairs on the back of the neck standing up as Ed Alleyne-Johnson returned to the stage for a stunning rendition of Green and Grey. This could've been ruined by the fire alarm going off half way through but it just made the band play harder and the crowd sing louder and in many ways it summed up the unique bond between NMA and their crowd. Great atmosphere and a great gig.