As I watched the bonus extra interview with singer Justin Sullivan, I realized I was more engaged by his past history and what he had to say than with his music. It seems a shame when Sullivan, a man who clearly has seen a lot in his life, can't communicate these treasured moments in his music band New Model Army.
The 1 hour and 47 minute set at the Astoria in London isn't a complete waste of time by any means, but the band doesn't have much of a stage presence. Until the final song ("I Love The World") the lispy and sometimes out of tune singer Justin Sullivan stands in the exact same spots for 20 songs. Granted, not every musician has to thrash around the stage, but it's nice to see band members lighten up and let loose every once in awhile. For instance, as old as Mick Jagger is, he still busts out the chicken dance.
In addition, New Model Army doesn't exactly stand out amongst other groups. Their music don't give me a legitimate reason to say "I need to listen to their albums!" The guitar riffs are stiff and hardly groundbreaking, the singer spouts controversial and highly political lyrics (namely in the songs "51st State" and "Here Comes The War") that so many artists do/did, the lyrics are rarely deep and are often straight forward ("Get me out of this trap, get me out of my brain"), and most of the songs run together making it difficult to differentiate between them.
As for the concert, the setlist is mixed at best. For the first 6 songs, the band seems to be going through the motions. It's only when Sullivan belts out the highlight "No Pain" that he and the crowd get pumped up. From there on out, a batch of hit (the quiet and personal "Ocean Rising") and miss ("I Love The World") tunes round out the concert.
On a side note, the crowd was more fun to watch than the concert itself. There's nothing quite like seeing a mosh pit, as well as bald dudes standing on people's shoulders flapping their arms expressively to the music.
Here is the setlist of the show:
1. Orange Tree Roads 2. The Charge 3. Over The Wire 4. Aimless Desire 5. Wonderful Way To Go 6. Courage 7. No Pain 8. White Light 9. 51st State 10. Here Comes The War 11. Family Life 12. Ocean Rising 13. Drag It Down 14. R&R 15. Purity 16. Poison Street 17. Get Me Out 18. Stupid Questions 19. No Rest 20. Green And Grey 21. I Love The World
I think giving the 4:3 full screen picture quality one star is being generous. The digital video is mind numbingly blurry and the color banding is bothersome. Not a pretty picture to be sure.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is a vast improvement over the video, but still nothing to rave about. The main problem is that singer Justin Sullivan's voice often seems distant when the music is loud and heavy. During quieter acoustic songs, this is not an issue.
The extras consist of a text biography, a run-of-the-mill 14 1/2 minute sound check from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, and a 27 1/2 minute interview with singer Justin Sullivan. The interview is a fascinating journey into the past as Sullivan talks about touring the U.S., nearly dying of electrocution, and albums. The interviewer himself is very inquisitive and does a good job of bouncing questions back-and-forth.
New Model Army fans will love this live performance, but I can't personally recommend this disk to those who have yet to hear their music. There are better bands waiting to be discovered out there folks. Part of the fun is finding them.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.