Gig Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with Photography by Ken Harrison.

A rallying call to the faithful, to the heart of England, to a legendary venue, in the back-end of the Black Country. And the faithful and then some, have responded to the call en masse. Welcome all to the powerful, raw and legendary New Model Army.

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It was late 2013 that we followed their calling to this same venue, as the Army, resilient to the last, had fought against adversity most bands would have folded under. The rally call was for new album, their best in years ‘Between Dog and Wolf. ‘ The Robin 2 was full of the passionate faithful, but not sold out. And they were epic. Probably the best gigs I saw that year. And now the Army rises; playing larger venues than this across the UK in the past couple of years. Tonight’s gig is, unsurprisingly, sold out.

Support tonight comes from local band Under A Banner, poetic pop-punk alternative folk-tinged rock  featuring Adam Broadhurst on guitar and vocals and tonight struggling with a lack of voice – but they are gonna do this anyway. Tracks from EP’s and latest album ‘Wild Places’ they are energetic, fun and polite –thank you for your time and patience.” According to their website the next phase of the band’s history will be a combination of date and bloody hard work. Check ’em out.

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At a little after 9pm, to  Gregorian chant here they come as Sullivan leads his band of brothers out onto the stage, and off we go ‘R&R.’ “Hey” from Sullivan, acknowledgement from the faithful. ‘Winter.’ The faithful are on shoulders already. Epically big in the intimate venue. “Bring me the cold cold wind, bring me the winter…”

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Tonight at The Robin, in this intimate venue – a sort of homecoming – the venue, the band, the sound, the fans, all aligned to perfection, in an already great gig.  ‘Here Comes The War’. Arms in air; rising beat; Sullivan’s angry and he means it. And we believe. At his best. ‘Part the Waters’ a tun-thumping drum beat chat, Sullivan screams imploringly. ‘The Charge’ from Thunder and Consolation. Marching drumbeat sounds and we sing….

“On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back,
We went galloping down the blackened hills, And into the gaping trap,
The bridges are burnt behind us and there’s waiting guns ahead,
Into the valley of death rode the brave hundreds

We called for some assistance from the friends that we had known
But this is the 1980s and we were on our own
We never felt like heroes or martyrs to a cause
Just battle-weary soldiers in a bloody civil war…”

And the frenetic passionate pace continues – ‘Angry Planet.’

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Sullivan speaks “…. this is a song about a man of a certain age and character. Which we hope isn’t us….” – ‘Born Feral.’ “This goes out to the broken-hearted –  which at your age, everyone has been at one stage!” quips Sullivan. ‘No Pain.’

So. As the ‘island’ gets towed out into the Atlantic under Brexit, the crew all lost and the plug pulled out, Sullivan tells us they’ve just returned from their European leg on this tour, and returned past Calais and Dunkirk. Right here in the set is where they usually play a song about refugees ‘Die Trying’, but this time they are going back to a song over thirty years old – ‘Higher Wall.’  Sullivan’s voice, acoustic guitar and keyboards . A purple lit set, a spot light off centre. Powerful stuff.

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The set rolls on with powerful tracks – the Faustian song about selling your soul to the ‘Devil’. “Care who you make deals with…” advised Sullivan. Followed by ’51st State.’ “Enough of Brexit – a love song instead..” – as the drumbeat starts – ‘Between Dog and Wolf.’

“Saturday night in Bilston has to be dance night.! All the best dance songs written about death – the first has to be Don’t Fear The Reaper. We reckon this is number 2….” The rising and passionate ‘Wonderful Way To Go.’

Then end of the main set and an all but brief break, ‘Poison Street’, ‘ My Country’  and then the faithful gather on the shoulder of others; the family circle – ‘Green and Grey.’

And they’re off. The houselights stay down, the Rolling Stones start blasting through the speakers. But wait…. “We decided we haven’t finished – we’d say you’ll see you all back here on a couple of years, but given the future, who knows where we’ll be…. but f*** it let’s play another song…”

Bass. Loud. Fast. Frantic. Passionate.  “Oh God I love the world….I love the world…. I love the world….” we sing as Sullivan screams – “I told you soooooo….”

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The pictures say it all. New Model Army were a rallying a call against the times of the 80s, of Thatcherism and all. And thirty years on their passionate songs, Sullivan’s lyrics old and new, are more relevant than they have ever been – as the world seemingly spirals out of control. For a band with thirty odd years behind em – they give heart and soul and everything at every gig, be there 10 or 10,000 there. New Model Army are growing and are on the march, resurgent, and the fans are following the calling. Out and about across the UK over the next few weeks and then festivals. I’m looking at ‘Winter’. I’m looking at Nottingham – when (hopefully) they will return to Rock City……


Setlist:
R&R
Winter
Here Comes The War
Part the Waters
The Charge
Angry Planet
Born Feral
Eyes Get Used to the Darkness
No Pain
Higher Wall
Did You Make It Safe?
Burn the Castle
Devil
51st State
Between Dog and Wolf
Wonderful Way To Go

Encore:
Poison Street
My Country
Green and Grey
Encore II:
I Love The World

Listening: New Model Army
Thunder and Consolation [1989]
Between Dog and Wolf [2013]
Winter [2016]

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