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  • Writer's pictureDanny C

New Model Army, Dublin, Belfast & Glasgow 18-20/04/24

Opium (18/04), Mandela Hall (19/04), The Garage (20/04)

Nobody follows their favourite band like New Model Army fans do. Nobody makes a live show as good as New Model Army fans do. And nobody parties harder than New Model army fans do. I should know after three gigs in three countries in three nights I tried, but tapped out after Glasgow, leaving others to make it four (or more) nights on the bounce, continuing to show their devotion to Justin Sullivan and co, while I went home to slowly recover from a very full on few days on the road.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of New Model Army - I’ve listened to them since sharing a flat and a stereo with Slash Vaseline and Captain C in the late Eighties and a regular at their December Rock City gigs (as well as other shows during the other 11 months of a year), but I feel like I’m only a passer-by compared to others I know who follow the band with incredible dedication, travelling all over Europe and put them above all other bands. Not without good reason either – I saw them play three excellent sets of new songs from their latest album, Unbroken and a good mix of familiar songs from across their forty plus years of doing what they do so well. They’re as good as ever - a tight well-balanced bunch of musicians completely in control of how they fashion their sound and the new album songs fit in well - pacy, furious and full of energy.

Our “Celtic Trilogy” started in Dublin with Slash Vaseline taking me to some of his old haunts from his days working there over twenty years go for some nostalgia and ‘proper’ Guinness. I can’t speak to the nostalgia (and neither can he, as his slow poured Guinness used to be ordered then served either side of a quick haircut back in the day – now he has to forego the cut and just stand and watch the pint settle) and was delicious. In the International Bar we met a local(ish) kindred New Model Army spirit Eddie, also going to the gig and did us a good turn taking us to some great places we’d never have found without him. More Guinness and some afternoon port (a Fields of the Nephilim related purchase as the Sandemans / Preacher Man logos being similar enough to reel me in) which detoured us from the pre-arranged pre-gig meet in a bar next to the venue. When we did arrive, it was like a family reunion – it seemed like every turn brought more people together, smiling, cheering and delighted with every new arrival through the door. I’ve seen posts since then with over fifty people tagged – that’s a good indication of how tight the widespread and far-flung fanbase are. By the end of the weekend, we’d been speaking with folks from all over the UK, Ireland and too many parts of Europe to mention. It felt like everyone was talking to everyone else all at the same time, a real buzz of friends enjoying each other’s company all at once.

The Dublin venue, Opium was smaller than I expected. Used to seeing New Model Army at a packed Rock City most years, I wasn’t expecting the gig to be in somewhere (on checking) holds only 700. The upside was the narrow but long floorspace meant it turned into a lively packed-in audience and a pit was on the go right from the off, only spoiled a bit by enthusiastic bouncers pulling our pal down off shoulders (Big Bridie Fae Easterhoose, yes there’s a story there). I’d checked the set from their earlier gigs in the tour and it didn’t change as much as they often do, so we knew roughly what to expect and weren’t disappointed – loads of classics and loads of great new album tunes. If you’ve not heard Unbroken, get on it asap!

Day two started by meeting at the station for the New Model Army Express to Belfast. There were four of us travelling together but group-by-group more Army folk arrived and ended up a few dozen by the time we boarded with one guy handing out of ‘train lagers’ to fellow NMA travellers  which went down well and set the tone for a lively journey and carried on into the afternoon and evening, detouring us again from the pre-meet. Eventually catching up with Big Bridie and Dutch Mig: Rock Superstar (as christened later in Glasgow by Slash) for some semi-sensible chat before the madness and excitement of the gig pre-meet part 2, with some new additions to the familiar faces of the Dublin leg, then on to the venue Mandela Hall. This is a bigger venue at 1000 capacity (I’m not obsessed with stats, honestly, well ok just a bit) and definitely a much roomier atmosphere with plenty space between folk even fairly near the front of the stage without spilling into the pit. Another great set and personally, with a less cramped crowd, I enjoyed watching this set with less jostling, elbows, shoulders, arms and distractions left right and centre. Less packed also meant no pyramids or up on shoulders though, with a few being stopped before they even got going! Some great post-gig chat and visited a few unusual bars, where our table was lifted away from us at one point and moved across the other side of the room without any of us noticing. Strange place that one, and I’d name it if I could but I’ve no idea exactly where it was.

Day three started with a fantastic breakfast at Harlem Cafe next to The Ulster Hall before heading to the airport to get home for our Scottish leg - you should go if you get the chance Thank you Irish Stiofáin for the introduction to the place a few years back before a NMA/SLF gig in Custom House Square.

To get a decent timed flight, we flew nearer to home than to the venue and landed in Edinburgh but delighted to bump into some gigging pals heading to Glasgow on our way through. And to continue the theme of gathering family on the way, when we arrived at the pre-meet (on time for once!) lots of local-leg new arrivals including; the Penigoths; our regular gigging pals from the English south coast the Swedish Cockneys, the Rice Boys, German friends of Dutch Mig and Big Bridie’s pal Jools from Glasgow rockers, Gun to name a few. There were so many of us that the bar we arranged the pre-meet put someone on the door to stop any more folk coming in! The only thing it really stopped was the post-meet was guaranteed to be somewhere else (the pre-meet bar’s loss!).

The Garage is a great venue, smaller again than Belfast (700 if anyone’s counting) but as a sell-out it was guaranteed to be a great atmosphere and did not fail to deliver. There was standing on shoulders this time (I was told the band do try and have a word with security everywhere to allow it and glad it was taken on board here) and the place was rocking from start to finish. I do like a lot of the new album material (in particular Do You Really Want To Go There) but not having heard it as much as some of the more familiar material, it’s always a highlight for me to hear Green and Grey or Winter, but I’m sure the Unbroken tracks won’t be long until they’re regulars in the set too. A better vantage point this time, standing nearer the back, we got a great view of not just the stage but the flailing crowd between and definitely the best set of the three for me – the crowd playing a big part of that. Just excellent.

So, after seventy-two hours on the go with New Model Army, Slash Vaseline, a huge bunch of great friends, some excellent live music, a 500-mile round trip and “slightly” more units of alcohol than should be taken in that time, I eventually got home while others carried on a few more days. Was I worse for wear? Yes, but worth it! Another tour and more travels for their next round of gigs? Do I really want to go there? Absolutely!

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May 04
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Cracking read Danny, wish I had bought a ticket and joined the Penigoths in Glasgow. 🍺👍


May 04
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great review. Glad the Glasgow gig was your favourite with it being the only one I made it to. Dublin and Belfast sounded like a great night out too.

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