14 December 2005: New Model Army – Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

14 December 2005: New Model Army - Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

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


12 December 2005: Cradle Of Filth + Cathedral + Octavia Sperati – Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

12 December 2005: Cradle Of Filth + Cathedral + Octavia Sperati - Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

I’ve never seen Rock City so crowded for a gig at 7:30. Meeting up at the Tap at 7:00 for pre-gig sustenance I was told that the queue to get into the venue stretched half way up the road and round the corner.

I sat and waited for it to go down. I can’t stand queuing.

By about twenty past, the queue had died down a bit and was only about 10 yards long by the time I tagged myself onto it.

I’d just got in when the lights went down and the band I’d come to see appeared on stage. (Forgive me if I get the set list wrong, but I was enjoying myself) Octavia Sperati smashed into “Icebound”, and to my pleasant surprise the venue went wild.

There’s obviously a bit of a buzz being created by this band and rightly so. The Last time I saw Octavia Sperati, at Junktion 7 in June, was in front of a maximum of about 50 people. This time the crowd was packed and the band had them eating out of their hands. The band were on top form, Silje stalking the stage and the band seeming to have much more stage presence than before (experience).

They also played “Lifelines Of Depths”, “Hunting Eye” and “Soundless” and at least, what sounded like, two new tracks to finish.

Halfway through the stage was invaded by a naked man with four strategically placed balloons, two at the front and two at the rear, who proceeded to prance around the band in an end of tour celebration/attempt to put them off. The band took it in their stride and Silje said, after they had finished the track, that they were expecting something to mark the end of the tour.

It was over far too quickly, as they only played for about half an hour, and it seemed to go quicker than that, but I was thrilled to have been there and once more very impressed with the band.

Octavia Sperati are going to be massive.

After Octavia Sperati had finished I refuelled my glass at the bar and returned to the dance floor to wait for Cathedral. The less said here the better as after one song I returned to the bar. There were lots of Cathedral fans at the gig and they seemed to be enjoying the set, but it did nothing for me and I would have much preferred another (or longer) Octavia Sperati set.

After refuelling again, and with a slight sense of foreboding, I set about waiting for Cradle Of Filth. It seemed a long wait with the ever more impatient crowd shouting a constant chant of “Cradle, Cradle, Cradle”

My foreboding at this time was due to the sight of the drum kit on the drum riser. Fully expecting a drum solo, I was becoming tempted to get my coat before they’d even started, but I am glad I stayed.

And then all hell broke loose. The entire dance floor slammed into one another as Cradle launched into their first number, bodies flying this way and that, and two monsters with wings appearing from the back of the stage.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to know what was going on, and the screeching vocals didn’t answer any of my questions, but after realising that I wasn’t going to understand it, I just enjoyed it. It was loud and it was fast.

I really enjoyed it! The lead singer rampaging backwards and forwards across the stage, up onto some specially erected metal supports for a pose and some vocals and back down and the same on the other side of the stage. The guitarists striking their poses and preening themselves in front of the worshipping masses.

After what I took to be a fairly short set, the band disappeared, only to reappear for an encore a few moments later with two scantily clad Humans (well, they weren’t monsters) spraying sparks from their guns (for want of a better word), with the lead singer taking it in the face at one point.

The finale came with the sparks being sprayed across the whole stage and being lit up by lighting into a dazzlingly glittering display. I still don’t know what it was all about, but went home finding that I’d had a surprisingly good time.

Even if it was becoming apparent that I’m getting old!

07 December 2005: Levellers – Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

07 December 2005: Levellers - Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK

I haven’t seen the Levellers for almost 5 months and I must say that the withdrawal symptoms have been setting in quite badly recently and I’d been looking forward to this gig for weeks, if not months.

Twenty five years ago today (and tomorrow) I was in bed with flu (well, what were you doing when John Lennon was shot) and having almost recovered from this years variant the motivation was lacking to get there early. Consequently, I missed the great Seth Lakeman (BBC Radio 2 folk awards 2006, folk singer of the year nominee), but if you’ve only got the energy to stand up for two hours then I suppose you have to make sacrifices.

The venue was packed. I haven’t seen Rock City this full for a Levellers gig for years. Normally it’s fairly full, but there’s space to move about. This was absolutely jammed.

Then we were off, with an Intro that I couldn’t hear, but which definitely involved Mr G Bush Jr. I think I must have picked a bad place to stand because I could hardly hear anything the band said all night, but I had a decent view so I wasn’t going to move. The band arrived on stage, with Simon sporting a Stetson with a feather sticking out of the back, all looking relaxed as usual.

“England My Home” was first up and a storming rendition it was too. I couldn’t see Jeremy, but he was bouncing like a good one as the mass of dreads that kept flailing out from behind the speaker stack testified. This was followed by “Sell Out”, another one that gets the crowd and Jeremy bouncing around.

The new single “Last Man Alive” was next. This deserves loads of airplay, which would make it the hit it deserves to be and if everyone who’s been to see them this tour buys it, it will be. But, I doubt it will get any national media support though (go on, prove me wrong…).

“The Road” prompted some spontaneous crowd surfing, which was immediately clamped down on by the security at the front of the stage. Why? It didn’t say “No Crowd Surfing” on the tickets (like it does on the Cradle Of Filth tickets), so surely it’s ok? This just strikes me as coming from the same “no fun” mentality that also tells us not to smoke, encourages us all to buy this or that alcoholic beverage (as long as we drink it responsibly) and makes us wait at pedestrian lights for all eternity, while the person crossing has been home, had a good nights sleep and crossed back again. Let the kids crowd surf!

Simon sang “For Us All” next, instrument less, and backed by the rest of the band. I found it quite disturbing to see him without a guitar strung round him. And then we were straight into “Wheels” and “What A Beautiful Day”.

Somewhere within these songs (I think it was “What A Beautiful Day”), Mark got hit in the face, mid verse, by what looked to me to be a pair of pants. This didn’t put him off a bit, though he did look slightly shocked when whatever it was actually hit him. It could have been a bra though (there was one hung on Mark’s mic stand for the rest of the night) as Jeremy, having received one bra and been ribbed by the rest of the band (“That’s the first one he’s ever had”), appeared to be inundated by underwear from that point on.

Simon was left alone with his guitar for “Cardboard Box City”. It’s ages since I heard this and I loved it. (Can we have “Social Insecurity” next tour please?). It was mildly spoilt (and Simon looked a bit narked as well) by the inane chattering of the masses. You’re at a gig, chaps, to listen to the band. If you want to talk about your latest knitting patterns save it for the journey home.

“Exodus” was next, but I think I was still singing “Cardboard Box City”, because I can’t remember it.

Then the place exploded as we were launched into “Carry Me”. Audience participation to maximum. I can’t wait to hear the CD you could buy after the gig for this one alone.

“Confess” from the Levellers latest album “Truth and Lies” was next. For me this is one of the best tracks on the album and it sounds even better live.

Mark struggled with his guitar during one of these numbers and had to abandon it completely onto the stage at one point but Simon managed to cover for him, with the Levellers normal professionalism.

During the next number, a rare outing for the excellent “Belaruse”, Mark nearly missed singing some lyrics by over-enthusiastically swinging his guitar about and almost knocking his mic stand over.

Then we were into the final numbers before the band left the stage. “The Game”, much appreciated by the audience, “Dirty Davey” (getting faster) and then “The Riverflow” (light speed). Exit stage right for light refreshments, with the crowd baying for more. Did the whole of Rock City shake as we stamped for more? I think it might have.

An absolutely brilliant main set, but I did miss “Burford Stomp”.

The band reappeared and launched into “Another Man’s Cause”, as relevant today as it ever was. Then it was time for the venue to shake again as “One Way” took the crowd’s vocal participation to new levels.

“The Devil Went Down To Georgia” was next. Fantastic, indescribable brilliance to end the night, with Jon easily beating the devil as Simon took the devils part on the guitar. Spectacular!

Off they went again, waving as they went. Only to return minutes later, with Seth Lakeman on second fiddle, for “What You Know”. Awe inspiring stuff. Faster and faster the fiddles went, Jon and Seth trying to out-fiddle each other, and the band played faster and faster and faster and then…

…the end.

John Shaw, one time Radio Trent DJ, once said after a gig by the Levellers that all the musicians watching the band were stood open mouthed with amazement as the band played “What You Know”. They’d have done the same thing tonight if they’d seen the show.

Best live act 2005; Coldplay. I don’t think so. Not by a long way! Get a grip…

Set list; Intro / England My Home / Sell Out / Last Man Alive / The Road / For Us All / Wheels / What A Beautiful Day / Cardboard Box City / Exodus / Carry Me / Confess / Belaruse / The Game / Dirty Davey / The Riverflow / Another Man’s Cause / One Way / The Devil Went Down To Georgia / What You Know