The Christmas concerts of New Model Army in the Palladium Cologne have long been a cult. On Saturday, the British played once again in the completely sold-out house – and the hardcore fans from England, like every year, created a fantastic atmosphere. Justin Sullivan’s team is getting better and better. An incredibly deep concert by independent rockers from Northern England, who are outstanding masters of the mixture of rock, punk and folk with rebellious poetry.
By Dylan Cem Akalin
Justin Sullivan is a modern morality singer. The songs of New Model Army are often scary ballads, narratives about rage and anger and sadness and about grievances, about poverty, oppression and the power of the community, about inner darknesses – and all this in scenic descriptions against a gray, gloomy backdrop. And like in a backletter ballad, Sullivan speaks directly to the audience, and it moves like a single organic unit in the hall. Especially in the front, where sweaty bear-Chested guys dance, trudge und hit like in a crazy procession.
The band plays 22 songs in around 120 minutes, including at least seven from the brilliant new album „From Here“, unfortunately only one from the previous album, but with „Winter“ the most haunting – and what a great version. Sullivan almost crawls into the song, as always illuminated at an angle from below at the concerts, which only reinforces the impression of a balladmonger who delivers secret messages at night. He bends and writhes, his hair like gray cobwebs around his head, stretches like a persecuted animal that guesses its end. („And I knew that the end was coming and I wished that it was over/Bring me the snowfall, bring me the cold wind, bring me the winter…“) Impressive.
In the album version, „From Here“ is already a disturbing accusation against our equanimity. What strong lyrics about mediocrity, overconfidence and unwavering indifference. Live, the New Model Army presents this accusation like a witch’s summon. Drummer Michael Dean plays a continuous rhythm like in the African tribal frenzy, Sullivan speaks the lines more than that he sings it. With his fist stretched upwards, dimly lit as if he were standing in the lantern, he appeals to the masses like a hero of freedom from days gone by.
The band as a whole is acting extremely well, Marshall Gill (guitar), bass player Ceri Monger, who keeps throwing his red hair backwards, and keyboardist Dean White, who produces strange sounds where necessary. The opener „No Rest“ was an impressive start, „Never Arriving“ ushered in the dark melancholy known by NMA, „The Weather“ brought the first goosebumps, a song that is so symptomatic of the restrained tension that the band has so brilliantly mastered – always balancing on the brink of an explosive outbreak. „The Charge“ is the first of five from the album „Thunder and Consolation“ (1989), in which the band has already addressed environmental problems and social grievances.
One of the highlights was of course „51 State“. Justin introduced the song with a view to the recent elections in his English homeland with the words: “Tonight we are refugees. Maybe we will never come back. ”And the whole audience sang along. „51st State“ appeared on their 1986 album „The Ghost of Cain“ and the NMA protested Margaret Thatcher’s pro-American politics. The text, however, came from Ashley Cartwright from the rather unknown The Shakes.
Another strong moment: The band had followed the count of the recent UK elections in Brighten, Sullivan says, when he was thinking of „Over The Wire“, a song about the decline of a port and industrial city in „a world that waits, but it’s not needed“.
Also a text full of pictures. Yes, Justin Sullivan is also a brilliant poet who paints pictures with words that are characterized by strong associations and poetic still lifes. Dust collects in forgotten footprints, you ride down blackened hills, masses of asphalt melt in the foul-smelling air of the poison.
There are five encores, all great songs: „Ballad of Bodmin Pill“, „125 Mph“, „Green and Gray“, „Betcha“ and with „I Love the World“ the fans are released into the night. Sullivan pretends to be an Antichrist who laughs at the fact that the ark is sinking. „We’ve seen the iron carcass rust and buildings topple into dust,“ he spits off the stage. „Scarred and smiling, dying slow, I’ll scream to no one left at all“. What a final statement!
(Much more pics and videos from the concert here)