New Model Army are about to enter the 30th year together as a band. There have been a few line up changes in that time, but the drive and work ethic continues. The planned 30th year anniversary gigs are due to happen later in 2010. In the mean time they continue to tour with a mix of old and new material.

My reason for reviewing Leeds and Liverpool together is down to the differences in the gigs. Not just in terms of audience and venues, but in terms of the set list.

Leeds is very crowded, with the usual chucking of beer and people not realising the folly of carrying several full pints down to the front of a gig where the pit is renowned for its “lively”, some might say violent, moshing. So there is your first difference, Leeds folk having more money to waste than Liverpool. And there is some kind of violent mood in the air, I witness one friend get annoyed with a guy for shoving his wife roughly and hear afterwards of another friend having to break up a fight - possibly with the same idiot, who seems determined to shove everyone around and provoke people.

Musically the gig is great and once the idiot retreats the atmosphere is electric, much of the crowd having been following the band around the country or even Europe and know what to expect next, but that doesn’t detract from their enjoyment. In fact there is almost a kind of ritual involved in knowing the words and when to get up on one another’s shoulders. At the end of the night everyone goes out feeling "High” and happy, even those of us who manage to lose our friends & miss out on the obligatory after gig curry!

Which brings us on to Liverpool. The venue in Liverpool is older and not as full. Moving in and out of the crowd to visit the bathroom/bar is a lot easier and there is plenty of room to dance and move about without as much violent shoving and pushing. There is, of course, an idiot, but he’s just inconsiderate and drunk rather than deliberately provocative. It seems friendlier and I get talking to people that I’ve seen before but never really spoken to.

The gig starts in the same order, but when some of the crowd accurately predict that the band are going to play 'High' by getting up on each other’s shoulders, front man Justin Sullivan comments on the way they know what is coming and makes some changes to the set list so we get some new-old material – songs that they have not played for a while. It seems that Justin is either worried about getting predictable, or it has been decided to test out what they have been practising for October on the Liverpool crowd. This goes down really well, with people saying how much more they enjoyed this gig compared to the Leeds one.

I enjoyed both gigs for different reasons, I generally find the Leeds Academy to have a less pleasant atmosphere than other venues regardless of the band, but New Model Army made it a good night to be there through their genuine enthusiasm and performance. The Liverpool one had a better atmosphere as a venue, but in a way the emptiness did detract slightly from it. It would be nice not to have to see bands in such a corporate environment – in venues that weren’t just an advertising statement for a mobile phone company, that sold cheaper, and nicer, drinks. But these places do offer good sound and lighting for bands in a large enough space, so I don’t think they are going to go away.

It doesn’t seem like New Model Army are either and I look forward to going on their 30th anniversary tour, where ever they play.

The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Neil Bailey.

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Commenting On: O2 Academy,Leeds, 19/3/2010 and O2 Academy, Liverpool, 20/3/2010 - New Model Army

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