New Model Army main man Justin Sullivan, as he often does, has a point. “That’s the problem when you’ve been in a band for 73 years” he says. “There’s always some anniversary or other, always someone saying you have to play this or that”.

He fixes 1200 people in the Wulfrun Hall a look that suggests no one had best try it.

And that attitude rather underscores the set. Uncompromising, entirely on their own terms – and wholly brilliant.

There’s not many bands of this vintage – it’s all of 40 years since the debut album – who put a new record out and play nearly all of it, but no one told New Model Army to play by the rules and the stunning “Unbroken” record forms the backbone of the set. Giving it the opener, “Coming Or Going” and giving the set its brilliant slogan, coming in “Language” where it begs for “the good people to win in the end”.

“First Summer After” is a beauty too, belonging next to “Winter” and indeed, as Sullivan bangs the acoustic you are reminded that (to paraphrase Woody Guthrie) that machine can still kill fascists.

Watching NMA many times, you are still struck by how heavy they are. “Stormclouds” has a metal riff and tribal feel as Ceri Monger ditches the bass to add extra drums.

Sullivan ushers in what he calls “the relationship section” with “Do You Really Want To Go There” and they change the setlist to bring in “Deserters” and its noticeable it is different from the album.

But you and “The Family” (who have turned out on force)  also want is the visceral anger of “225” before which the singer muses that its 35 years old “and its amazing how little has changed”. The line “we never asked for any of this” is particularly powerful.

“Reload” is perhaps the best of the new songs, it’s glorious and bursts forth with a discussion on the evils of privatisation, and becomes an explosion. In the context it is played, the more metal “Angry Planet” is almost its companion piece.
Sullivan muses that “life is long” before ending the set with “one of only two happy songs about death,” “Wonderful Way To Go”.

They go all the way back to “Vengeance” for a brilliant “1984” and the mid 1980s for “The Hunt”, before ending with “Get Me Out” – which seethes with a very real anger.

That’s why New Model Army work so well. They document the world, but crucially their world view, and let’s be fair there’s a lot to be cross about in 2024. Few bands channel it better.
Someone had shouted out for a song when they returned. Sullivan had smiled and said “we won’t give you what you want on principle”.

Far better, NMA give you what you need instead.

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