New Model Army (Justin Sullivan and Dean White) - 20 & 21 May 2010

Concert review by Sandrine Maugy

New Model Army in ConcertNew Model Army are on the road again for the summer festivals and later on for their Anniversary Gigs. 30 years… I missed the first 4 of those, but after that I enjoyed album after album and tour after tour of this remarkable band. I had only planned to go to the Canterbury gig but as someone pointed out on the night, High Wycombe is much closer to where I live. Somehow, I had missed that. Probably because I had never heard of High Wycombe, which it turns out, is where Justin Sullivan went to his first ever concert, in the very same venue. Once I realised how close the second gig was, I couldn’t really ignore it.

The sets were almost identical, with only a couple of songs disappearing the second night to be replaced by even better ones. I didn’t mind hearing the same songs twice: it’s not like I can ever get enough New Model Army or tire of Sullivan’s voice.

Orange Street Music in Canterbury is three times the size of the Nag’s Head in High Wycombe and they take only half as many people. It felt quite spacious and comfortable, with old floor lamps full of tassels, ribbons and vintage fabrics, all bathed in a warm and congenial light. The Nag’s Head is an old pub with a concert room upstairs, which quickly becomes near unbearably hot, sweaty and rather damp. The contrast between the two nights was compelling: the first one was a revelation that we are now middle-aged and we like being cosy; on the second night we wanted to shout “Punk’s Not Dead!” The feeling was reinforced further with the band that played downstairs later: a brilliant punk band from Seattle called the Cute Lepers.

The New Model Army sets contained songs from all eras. No Greater love is an old favourite of mine and it was such a pleasure to hear it live. Snelsmore Wood was there, for the veterans of the Newbury bypass and protesters for all causes. On the first night we had a heart-wrenching version of No Pain, which works so well in a semi-acoustic set up. On the second night it was replaced by Sun on The Water. It was beautifully done, Justin playing and singing so softly it was like a caress on the skin, which was much needed in the smouldering atmosphere. There is something about “Abel and Cain walking down to the sea to gaze at the sun on the water” which is intrinsically serene, these emblems of bloodshed finally at peace, at least in this song, for eternity. We were treated to Marrakesh both nights, another song that I could hear forever.

I also rediscovered Someone Like Jesus: I was never particularly fond of it but this version really sent chills down my spine. It was much darker and was particularly disturbing on the second night, when the audience sang it as well in a very low, menacing voice. By then the band was dripping on stage looking like they were about to drown, water was running down the walls and from the ceiling, and the audience was so wet it looked like we should start gathering two of each animal.

Both nights finished with Ballad of Bodmin Pill, which got us dancing a bit and left us all happy and ready for the big anniversary events. Bring it on!

To see more photos, visit… Aline Giordano's website

For more details, visit… New Model Army's website