Fifteen or so years ago NMA were one of my favourite bands. Their music touched parts of me that other bands just couldn’t reach and it probably also made me think about things more than most books or TV programmes ever did. I loved the notions of justice, looking after one another, standing up for what you believe in and wearing your heart on your sleeve, not being afraid to show your emotions. Not having seen them play for longer than I care to remember I really couldn’t wait for this gig.
The support was provided by Spear Of Destiny who are a band that I’ve never really been a fan of and the lukewarm reaction of the crowd suggested I wasn’t alone in this so I’ll say no more about them.
NMA came on stage and started with ‘Water’ which also received something of a lukewarm reaction. It was probably at this stage that I started worrying how the gig was going to pan out. Back in the days when I was a lad these shows were always full-on affairs with a frenzy of friendly dancing going on over most of the dancefloor. Could it be that we’d all grown old and turned into miserable buggers, ambivalent towards this band with only Justin from the original line-up still there?
Well, thankfully not. More new numbers followed and the crowd gradually became more animated as some of the ‘better’ tunes, such as ‘Carlisle Road’, came out. Girls were hoisted onto shoulders to dance and also to apparently do signing for the deaf in case they failed to grasp the content of the lyrics.
My thoughts inevitably soon turned to the sad death last year of drummer, Rob Heaton, whom I was a very big fan of. It wasn’t just that he played the fast stuff so superbly, it was more that he played the slow ones even better. Replacing him, in my mind, was always going to be impossible as you could’ve sat John Bonham or Keith Moon behind the drums and I still wouldn’t have been satisfied. However, that’s just me being sentimental, I suppose, and I must admit that all of the current band members played fantastically well. A less particular ear than mine might not even have been able to hear the difference between old-NMA and the current new-NMA, they were that good.
A couple of older tunes, such as ‘Wonderful Way To Go’ and ‘Here Comes The War’, were increasingly thrown in here and there and, in my opinion, got by far the biggest response. What a surprise. There was also a rocky re-working of the ballad, ‘Before I Get Old’, which was turned into a completely different song and came off a treat. The real treats, though, came towards the end of the set; old song followed by old song followed by old song.
After hearing ‘51st State’, ‘No Rest’, ‘Poison Street’ and ‘Get Me Out’ I started to feel a bit like a wide-eyed optimistic teenager again. Things got even better during the encores when they played ‘Heroes’, ‘Purity’, ‘Vagabonds’, ‘The Charge’ and to end with, the brilliant ‘125mph’. It doesn’t get much better than that, not for me anyway.
All in all, it was a great gig saved from the edge of mediocrity by some classics from yester-year. This latest incarnation of NMA – and their songs – aren’t quite as good as they used to be back in their prime but then again, who is? At least they’ve remained faithful to their past and still play some great old songs, rather than trying to re-brand themselves as something completely new. If they keep on like this then I’ll certainly keep on going to see them.
Set-list; Water / Believe It / BD3 / Fate / Wonderful Way To Go / Carlisle Road / Another Imperial Day / Here Comes The War / Snelsmore Wood / Red Earth / Too Close To The Sun / Before I Get Old / 51st State / Island / No Rest / Poison Street / Get Me Out / Break / Heroes / Purity / Vagabonds / Break / The Charge / 125mph