Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

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All come all ye faithful. From across Northampton and across the UK the fans are drawn  in as the Army marches into town. Tonight at the Roadmender in Northampton, in this room, a young lass making war with music – She Makes War before we march on with the New Model Army.

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There’s an eclectic group of people here, the old, the young, goth, punk, rocker, ‘normal’ – the family are here tonight. While some are taking a beverage in the bar, we are taking a peek at Laura Kidd. Or we should say She Makes War. Kidd is a Bristol based multi-instrumentalist.  She takes a cocktail of inspiration and turns singer songwriter with a guitar to a different level, using vocal loops, reverb and a series of instruments to construct her songs live on stage. And she’s chatty to – gabbering away in between songs. She goes down well. ‘Delete’ refers to the internet, and at times really not wanting to be out there in the websphere. ‘Slow Down Sunshine’ about an ex that sucked the life out of her. She’s currently making her third album, crowd funding it she goes along and is out on an extensive tour of the UK. See her in Brum on the 24th at Ort Arts Cafe.

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So the crowd take to the room – a smaller, more intimate venue tonight. Last time we saw New Model Army it was at their jaw-dropping Notts Rocky City festive bash that pulled in the family from across the UK and Europe. Tonight a smaller fair – the venue packed with 500 +.

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To dry ice and thunder rolling through the speakers, NMA take to the stage. To a crack of guitar, Sullivan snarls his vocals, and the double drumbeat takes hold. Off their latest stunning album ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ it’s ‘Stormclouds.’ NMA are brushing off the winter and are setting of in 2015 with the power that they mean to go on, not just all night, but all year. Receives a huge cheer from the crowd – ‘Hey!’ says Sullivan.

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NMA’s sets always give an eclectic mix of tracks from across their 3 decades of existence. From the recent: ‘March in September’ to back in time. Back to the miners strike in Yorkshire.  All truth and justice NMA way. “Were half of you born then?” quips Sullivan A track written at that time and one three years later. Imagine yourself – it’s cold and early in the morning, standing at the picket line – it’s ’1984.’ Followed by a track from their classic ‘Thunder and Consolation’ – ‘The Charge.’
“On on on cried the leaders at the back, we went galloping down the blackened hills and into the gaping trap, the bridge are burnt behind us and there’s waiting guns ahead…. …. into the valley of death rode the brave hundreds….”

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NMA – 2015 remain a stunning live band. And that’s okay, it’s more than a good day – as we celebrate ‘ Today is a Good Day.’ The drums beat out, bash out, Sullivan paces the stage. But NMA are far more than just screaming and anger. They are passion, contemplation –  ‘Devil’s Bargain’ is mesmerisingly atmospheric. “ The trouble with the past…” Sullivan relates, “…is that the longer you go on the more stuff you carry…” Though he thinks it’s worse for the youth of today. The stuff they do is recorded and stored forever… –  ‘No Mirror, No Shadow.’

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The crowd chants – requests for songs – “Vagabonds, Vagabonds, Vagabonds” come the chant. As Sullivan politely responds that they have over 225 songs to choose from. So ‘Vagabonds’ it isn’t –  another ‘newbie’ from ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ quite literally about a 70s motorcyclist stunt rider Evil ‘Knievel.’ And as the tracks rolls on we go from ‘Modern Times’ and switch – ‘Get Me Out.’

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Quick break and encore it is. Apparently we’re in the heart of England. Sullivan asks if there is anyone here from Northampton – a big cheer goes up. And then there is all those who have traveled, some miles and miles. ‘Stranger’ is a time for standing on the shoulders of men, quite literally, as the family take their position. And then up, the title track ‘Between Dog and Wolf’, with it’s double drum march beat. Before back in time, to a redemption song : ‘Ballad of Bodmin Pill.’

Another encore and another rip-stomp with ‘Christian Malicia.’ Sullivan: “We’ll see you somewhere – one day it’ll turn out we won’t and we’ll all be surprised – you and us…”  as they take us to the end. “What a Wonderful Place to Go…”

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NMA  attract a truly loyal following. Seriously, once you see them, you will track them down, seek out their nearest gig, and be there.NMA remain overtly political, never fearful of being confrontational, it’s part of their DNA. They’ve never chosen the easy route, sticking to their guns and principals throughout.  Resilient to the last – lineup changes, personal tragedies are all part of the band’s history and are part of who they are. But they are family. We are family.

And the Army are on the March. You can catch them in Reading on this March tour, and across the summer in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and the odd festival including in London as part of Camden Rocks and at Chagstock. And then we get festive with dates at Manchester Academy and Notts Rock City in December. And they’re in the studio. The family are excited. And we’re told to be patient. And wait…..

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Setlist I:
Stormclouds
March in September
1984
The Charge
Today Is A Good Day
Devil’s Bargain
Guessing
No Mirror, No Shadow
Knievel
Summer Moors
Angry Planet
No Greater Love
Modern Times
Get Me Out
Encore I:
Stranger
Between Dog and Wolf
Ballad of Bodmin Pill
Encore II:
Christian Militia
Wonderful Way to Go

Listening:
Thunder and Consolation [1989]
Between Dog and Wolf [2013]

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